Saharan dust heading to Virginia later this week

Could bring haze and vibrant sunrise/sunsets
Published: Jun. 23, 2020 at 10:17 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2020 at 9:51 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — You may have heard dust is on the way from the Saharan Desert. This is nothing new, in fact it happens every year. “The Saharan Air Layer” is a large area of dry, dusty air that forms over the Sahara from late spring through early fall. Plumes of this dust often move into the tropical Atlantic Ocean every three to five days, according to NOAA. It moves in that direction due to the Trade Winds, which are the same winds that carry tropical systems to the United States.

What’s unique about it this year? It has to do with the thickness of the dust over the Caribbean Sea. In fact, some observations indicate this plume contains the highest concentration of dust particles in the last 50-60 years. So while Saharan dust over the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico is not uncommon, this year the plume or concentration is just much higher.

Earlier this week, stunning images came out of the Caribbean. The dust significantly lowering visibility and reducing air quality.

Don’t expect much of an impact to our visibility, the concentration won’t be as high as it was over the Caribbean. Expect a bit more haziness to the sky, and of course vibrant sunrise and sunsets. As a result of the sunlight being scattered by the dust, expect to see more vibrant reds and oranges when the sun rises and sets. Because this dust will be in the mid to upper levels of the atmosphere, it’s not expected to have an impact in our air quality here.

However, it will also be hot this weekend and humid Sunday which tends to lower air quality.

Keep an eye to the sky, especially Friday through the weekend! Send us your photos, you may see yours on air!

The dust will move into the Mid-Atlantic area later this week/weekend.
The dust will move into the Mid-Atlantic area later this week/weekend.(WHSV)

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