I’ve been talking about this Saharan Air Layer of dust that’s on the way for the weekend. In fact, so have those in space:
We flew over this Saharan dust plume today in the west central Atlantic. Amazing how large an area it covers! pic.twitter.com/JVGyo8LAXI— Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) June 21, 2020
The effects of the dust are pretty well documented in terms of creating spectacular sunsets, irritating your sinus cavity, iron-rich sand that can lead to algae growth and red tide and suppressing hurricanes. In fact, you can read more about that on Click2Houston.com right here.
But the SAL, as it’s known, is a relatively new area of study with the first tracking starting in 2001 via satellite. Then, sending aircraft missions into hurricanes to study surrounding dust layers has proven very important to tropical forecasts. Knowing the initial state of the atmosphere is key for the models in making those forecasts (a timeline of accomplishments is at this link). After all, the SAL inhibits hurricane formation by creating stronger winds that tear storms apart (up to 55 mph), stabilizing the surrounding atmosphere with warmer air, and sending extremely dry air over the Atlantic cutting atmospheric moisture by 50%!
So knowing just how the SAL interacts with the atmosphere has become vital in forecasting hurricanes and other extreme weather events. NOAA has a whole team now that studies the SAL with the mission of improving those forecasts and better understanding the SAL’s impact on our climate. You can meet them here.
They are part of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. Behind blogs and TV forecasts, there are always dedicated scientists trying to make sense of a constantly changing atmosphere. Kudos and thanks to them!
By the way, we may get a few quick downpours this weekend. With the dust in place, that can create a muddy mess of your car! This happened last February with West Texas Dust and I blogged about it.
If you get some this weekend it will have come all the way from the Sahara Desert!
Continue to stay safe and healthy!
P.S. Thanks for all the birthday wishes. I can now get in early to Costco via the senior line!