Dust from Africa lands in Texas

It’s not often that Central Texas can look outside their window and see Africa, but anyone noticing the hazy summer skies recently has done just that.

Dubbed the Sahara haze by some, dust from Africa has traveled across the Atlantic since the beginning of this month, causing a hazy appearance most noticeable in the morning. 

The National Weather Service in Fort Worth described the conditions Monday by saying, “The combination of the Sahara dust plume ... and pollutants within immediate urban areas is already resulting in hazy conditions across parts of the area.”

These conditions were visible in Erath County that day under the morning sun.

It’s also increasing breathing problems, particularly for older adults and children, as well as those with heart or lung disease. People in these groups are warned to reduce prolonged or heavy exertion under the hazy conditions and triple-digit highs.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has even begun to chronicle the African dust in its daily air quality predictions, saying the entire state would  experience at least light amounts by July 17.  The next day's predictions indicated the first cloud would be moving inland and remain strong in North, Central and East Texas while another cloud of dust would sweep in from the south.

Moderate dust involvement was predicted for the local area July 19 while the new cloud was expected to build and move further inland.

The Sahara haze has some benefit, though, as NASA reported that the dry, dusty air from the Sahara can prevent hurricanes from forming when it’s over the Atlantic.

They know this because this is hardly the first time that African soil has made its way to America.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that plumes of African dust are commonly carried across the Atlantic with hundred of millions of tons lifted every year. The dust is usually found around the Caribbean islands but occasionally travels through to Mexico, the Florida Peninsula and Texas. This event is noted to be larger than usual, though.Most of this dust has made a 5,000-mile journey from the Bodele depression, a dry lake bed in north-central Chad. The dust is actually full of “skeletons” of diatoms- micro-organisms that thrived when the depression was full of water. The dried diatoms are picked up by winds naturally accelerated through a gap in mountains upwind of the landform. 

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