A massive plume of dust from the Sahara Desert is the thickest in decades to reach the Caribbean Sea, and some of the dust
is expected to move across the country until Wednesday.
- A.M. Costa Rica illustrative photo -
Published Tuesday, May 18, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
Specialists of the Meteorological Institute warn about the entry of a Saharan dust cloud that has already engulfed the Caribbean.
A massive plume of dust from the Sahara Desert is the thickest in decades to reach the Caribbean Sea, and some of the dust is expected to move across the country until Wednesday.
Known as the Saharan Air Layer, SAL, this dry dust plume commonly forms from late spring through early fall and moves into the tropical Atlantic Ocean every three to five days, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.
The densest plume began to emerge off western Africa last weekend and has now traveled over 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, covering an area larger than the United States and western Europe.
The Saharan dust tracks as far west as the Caribbean Sea, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico each year, approximately a 5,000 mile-long journey.
This particular dust event is unique because of its thickness over the Caribbean Sea. It has the highest concentrations of dust particles observed in that region in the last 50 to 60 years, according to specialists.
NOAA's HRD said the Saharan Air Layer is typically located between 5,000 and 20,000 feet above the Earth's surface. It is transported westward by bursts of strong winds and tropical waves located in the central and western Atlantic Ocean at altitudes between 6,500 and 14,500 feet.
The Saharan dust plume is forecast to continue plowing westward through the Caribbean Sea, then reach parts of the Gulf Coast and Deep South later this week.
Dust plumes like these typically become less concentrated the farther west they move. "The dust particles can contribute to hazy skies and spectacular sunrises and sunsets in the Caribbean Islands, South Florida, the Florida Keys and the U.S. Gulf Coast," NOAA's specialist said in its report.
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