This past weekend, a massive dust cloud from Africa’s Sahara Desert caused hazy skies across Texas, Mexico and parts of Central America. The dust cloud traveled more than than 5,000 miles from Africa across the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
According to NASA Earth Observatory:
On June 18, 2018, satellites began to detect thick plumes of Saharan dust passing over Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau before moving out over the Atlantic Ocean. For the next ten days, the skies over West Africa and across the tropical Atlantic were stained a distinctive shade of yellow as winds pushed pulse after pulse of Saharan dust to the west. According to one preliminary analysis, this brought the tropical Atlantic one of its dustiest weeks in 15 years.
Every year, over a hundred million tons of dust get picked up from the deserts of Africa and blow across the Atlantic Ocean, affecting air quality in North and South America. Some of it reaches as far as the Amazon River Basin, where the minerals in the dust replenish nutrients in rainforest soils, which are continually depleted by tropical rains.The dust research suggests that the dust plays a role in the suppression of hurricanes and the decline of coral reefs as well.
The dust also made for vivid sunrises and sunsets.
I like the Sahara dust. As a photographer it makes a beautiful photo of the sun coming up! pic.twitter.com/SE242YTgc1
— ETTA COX (@mamapiinkx0) June 28, 2018
Bottom line: On the last weekend of June 2018, a massive dust cloud from Africa’s Sahara Desert swept 5,000 miles across the Atlantic and caused hazy skies across Texas, Mexico and parts of Central America.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.