The Sahara Desert dust plume is expected to reach Florida on Saturday
The dust plume is expected to reach Florida on Saturday and could then move to other parts of the southeast.
Dr. Jason DunionA University of Miami hurricane researcher working with NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, tracked the plume of dust – called the Saharan air layer – forming over the desert of Sahara in late spring, summer, and early fall, then moves into the tropical Atlantic.
“SAL outbreaks can form when ripples in the lower to middle atmosphere, called tropical waves, follow the southern edge of the Sahara Desert and release large amounts of dust into the atmosphere,” Dunion said. “As the SAL crosses the Atlantic, it typically occupies a layer of atmosphere 2 to 2½ miles thick, with its base beginning about a mile above the surface.
Dunion said the reason NOAA is closely monitoring the dust plume via satellite is that the heat, dryness and strong winds associated with the Saharan air layer have been shown to suppress formation and intensification of tropical cyclones, which is good for states along the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico, with Atlantic hurricane season officially set to begin on June 1.
“This information allows forecasters and scientists to continuously monitor the evolution of SAL outbreaks and their effects on tropical North Atlantic meteorology and climatology,” he said.
“Thanks to recent advances in satellite technology, we can better monitor and understand the SAL, from its formation over Africa to its interactions with tropical cyclones to its impacts on weather along the US coast. Gulf and Florida,” Dunion said.
Dunion said the information NOAA collects with satellites and research missions from NOAA aircraft allows NOAA to better understand how dust plumes from the Sahara suppress tropical cyclones and helps researchers better assess what to do. what to expect this hurricane season.
“NOAA forecasters and researchers routinely use satellite data to detect these aspects of SAL and some of this information is incorporated into models to improve forecasts,” he said.
The dusty air has about 50% less humidity than the typical tropical atmosphere and creates downdrafts that can weaken developing tropical cyclones.
Additionally, the strong winds associated with the Saharan dust plume can significantly increase vertical wind shear, which also prevents the formation of tropical storms.
And, finally, the warmth of the Saharan air layer can suppress the development of clouds necessary for the development of tropical cyclones.
Why Floridians Should Care
Depending on the amount of dust carried by the plume, the plume could create poor air quality in certain areas.
People who have certain types of breathing problems may experience difficulty. People in the path of the plume may experience eye, nose and throat irritation from the fine dust particles in the air.
On the other hand, the dust plume tends to create vibrant and colorful sunrises and sunsets as light bounces off the dust particles.
Florida photographers may want their cameras ready for sunrise and sunset on Saturday.