A surge of Saharan dust from the Sahara Desert has reached the Eastern Caribbean

This outbreak of dust is expected to reach the Western Caribbean and parts of Jamaica by early next week. Commonly known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), this dry dust generally forms during the late spring through early fall months and moves across the Tropical Atlantic Ocean over a three to five days cycle, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division (HRD).

Every year hundreds of millions of tons of dust are picked up from the deserts of Africa and blown across the Atlantic Ocean. Although, the dust helps build beaches in the Caribbean and fertilizes soils in the Amazon, it can severely affect air quality, tropical cyclones development and results in harmful heat stress-related impacts on animals and plants.

According to NOAA, the SAL is most common during hurricane season, research has been done on how it can affect the development of tropical storms and hurricanes. The early part of hurricane season is typically quiet in the tropical Atlantic. But this outbreak of dust along with unfavourable upper-level winds will likely put a lid on any significant tropical development over the next several weeks.

Another round of Saharan dust is expected to arrive this week and lingering through the weekend. While sensitive folks may experience some minor respiratory irritation, most will only notice some hazy and hot conditions and more vibrant sunsets. Nevertheless, we should take the necessary precautions to stay hydrated and avoid the heat by not staying out in the direct sunlight, especially during the hours of 11am to 3pm each day.

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