Saharan dust to reach the Midwest by this weekend


ST. LOUIS – Dust from the Sahara Desert is forecasted to make its way to the Midwest by the weekend.

Downdrafts from thunderstorms over Africa blow the dust high in the air where it gets picked up by trade winds in the mid and upper levels of the atmosphere. Most of the time, that dust settles out over the open ocean, but, when the conditions are right, that dust carries all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. 

While it typically reach parts of South America, the Caribbean, and the U.S. Gulf coast, the dust spreading up into the central United States is more rare. Much like when wildfire smoke drifts into our region, we’ll notice a haze to the sky. Those extra particulates in the atmosphere do a great job of scattering the sun’s rays, creating beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Robb Muller from Schiller’s Camera says while a mirrorless camera or a digital SLR would be best to capture that moment, the best camera is the one that’s with you.

“Many of the cameras and even on some cellphones have an actual sunset setting. And that is very helpful because what the camera does is it tries to give you…it tailors the camera for sunrise and sunset which tends to give you a little longer exposure and a little bit better aperture, a little bit better F-Stop, so more things are in focus,” explains Muller.

While it can be beautiful, all that extra dust in the air can also be dangerous to those who live with respiratory issues. Chris Martinez, Executive Director of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of St. Louis, says that’s means asking the most vulnerable to once again stay inside.

“If someone has a respiratory challenge already it could very well be more difficult. We’re talking about irritation to the throat, the nose, the eyes and that can lead to more serious situations, classically known as an asthma attack. So, we’re very concerned about our folks and making sure people are prepared,” says Martinez.

A fun fact about dust from the Sahara? It feeds the plants of the Amazon rain forest. The Sahara was once a lakebed. NASA scientists have found evidence that the phosphorus in the dust is an essential nutrient that the Amazon depends on in order to flourish.

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