The nation is abuzz about a wall of dust that has drifted thousands of miles from the Saharan desert to the Americas, touching down in the Caribbean this week and expected to move onward to the contiguous United States soon. Large enough to be seen from space and appearing as a plume capable of darkening skies, the full impact of the phenomenon is to be determined. The question remains – should Coloradans be worried?
While it might not sound familiar, the Saharan dust migration is an annual occurrence, its just a larger wave this year, which is why it’s more visible. In fact, one environmental health specialist called it the most significant that is has been in the past 50 years. Capable lowering air quality, have severe impacts on visibility, and causing adverse health effects, the wave of dust is particularly problematic for those with pre-existing conditions, such as lung disease and asthma.
Here’s a look at the dust from above:
A magnificent view of a dust plume from @NOAA‘s #GOESEast, from June 23. Known as the #SaharanAirLayer, this particular plume has reportedly spread over the Caribbean, reducing visibility in some areas to five miles. See our world: https://t.co/ZcDtqO5ZoH pic.twitter.com/7jHIIJTm88 — NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) June 24, 2020
Thankfully for Coloradans, local impacts are expected to be minimal, though that is subject to change. Most reports indicate that the furthest west the dust is expected to reach in America – at least in noticeable levels – is Texas, with the most at-risk states being located in the southeast along the Gulf Coast.
Here’s a map that shows the possible movement of the dust:
A mass of very dry, dusty air is moving across the Atlantic right now. This NOAA animation predicts the movement of the #SaharanDust plume from now through Sunday evening (June 29). Learn more about the #SaharanAirLayer: https://t.co/OJLrnuKiLI pic.twitter.com/yvPjiE5o91 — NOAA Research (@NOAAResearch) June 24, 2020
As can be seen in NOAA Research projections, the heavy parts of the dust storm will just miss Colorado. There was some initial concern that southeast Colorado may experience some of the negative side effects, though a high pressure weather pattern that sits over southeast America will actually pull the dust away from Colorado, according to FOX21.
This is still a situation that is subject to change and should be monitored, but for now, it looks like Colorado’s skies won’t be darkened by this phenomenon.
Here’s a look at the impact of the dust in the Americas thus far: