Weather for Kids: Understanding the Saharan Dust Mass

Weather For Kids

dust made for vibrant sunrises and sunsets across the Great Lakes

The Saharan Dust mass traveling across the Atlantic Ocean and over the United States is nothing uncommon. This happens every year around June or July because of strong upper-level winds that come from the east along the region of the equator. These are called the trade winds.

This year, however, that Saharan Dust has been nicknamed the “Godzilla” dust cloud because of its size and intensity. It stretches much further (about 5,000 miles) and is much thicker than it has been in the last nearly 50 years.

In the southern states, you’ve likely heard that these dust particles are creating bad air quality and that people should avoid the outdoors, which is the case. It can also hinder tropical storm formation. This is because the ingredients for a tropical storm include warm moist air. The dry dusty air dampens the chances of the warm moist air fueling a storm. Here in the Valley, those impacts aren’t nearly as big.

What you may have noticed at sunrise and sunset over the last 24 to 48 hours, is the picture in the sky filled with colorful oranges and yellows.

Why? Well, over the last 24 hours, the dust mass split. The thicker mass stayed over the southern states, while the other less particle-filled mass moved north toward the Canadian border and Great Lakes – where we are.

Those dust particles (and sea salt particles, picked up along the journey over the ocean) reflects the light as it sits on the horizon, painting beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Our air quality remains unaffected and unfortunately, the dry, dusty air wasn’t enough to lower our chances of rain on Saturday.

Cloud cover was heavy because of rain and storms Saturday morning, but as the clouds cleared Sunday morning, colors in the sky looked extra vibrant – and could stay that way on Monday.

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