CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The first Saharan dust cloud of 2022 is currently moving across the Atlantic and is forecast to move into south Texas late Sunday and Monday, bringing the possibility of reduced air quality along with hazy skies.
This enormous plume of very dry, dusty air is called the Saharan Air Layer. It forms over the Sahara Desert during the late spring, summer and early fall and moves into the tropical Atlantic every three to five days.
Stronger winds in the mid-levels of the atmosphere transport the dust from Africa westward across the Atlantic Ocean. A high-pressure system in the subtropical Atlantic can send the dust into the Caribbean and wind patterns can steer the dust toward parts of the U.S.
The dust plume is usually 2 to 2 1/2miles thick with its base about 1 mile above the Earth's surface, generally located between 5,000 and 20,000 feet above ground level.
The dust can create vibrant sunrises and sunsets because as the light bounces off dust particles, it taps into all of the color spectrum.
The dust can also contribute to poor air quality in some areas. It is important that people with asthma and other chronic lung diseases take precautions to maintain control of their underlying conditions and reduce exposure to dust by limiting time outdoors during dust storms.
Also, the warmth, dryness, and strong winds associated with the Saharan Air Layer have been shown to suppress tropical cyclone (hurricane) formation and intensification.