The Saharan Dust Has Arrived

dust may 15 2017 (1)

A small “haze” is starting to overtake St. Thomas.

For those of you here on island and those of you who’ve been checking out our webcams from the States, you may have noticed that our skies have had a bit of a haze over the past few days. Well that’s not haze you’re looking at, it’s actually Saharan Dust, and it looks like we have a bit more to come in the near future.

It happens every spring and summer. Over the past two years, the dust arrived during the last week of April, so we’re a bit luckier this year that it held out until now. What happens is that dust from the Saharan Desert travels west and clouds up the skies over the Virgin islands. It occurs when an increase of warm air causes sand particles to rise above the desert. Those particles are then transported over the Atlantic Ocean and across to the Caribbean. When the dust arrives in the territory, the islands’ typical bright blue skies are replaced by a haze. Visibility is reduced, and the air quality becomes poor. It also becomes very hot, something those of you on island may have also noticed over the past few days.

Here’s a better explanation that Eleanore Gibney gave us back in 2015:

“What we are seeing is the effects of desertification as the Sahara has been spreading south. The fine particles of soil from formerly fertile lands are easily blown off, unlike heavier sand particles. The process accelerated in the past 40 years, prior to that visible dust was never noted in the VI.”

This satellite image shows the amount of dust that’s currently near the Territory. As you can see, there is a large swath to our west. That will inevitably arrive in the Territory.

dust screenshot may 15 2017

Want to know the status of the Saharan Dust? Click here to view current satellite images. 

To give you a better idea of what the dust looks like when it arrives, check out this pic that we took last year:

dust caneel hill

And here’s a pic without the dust:

caneel hill

One good thing: The dust creates great sunsets. So check out those webcams around 6:30 p.m. or so. We’ll post pictures over on our Facebook page.

5 comments for “The Saharan Dust Has Arrived

  1. Linda
    May 15, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Yep, we called it yesterday afternoon. We’ve seen it before, much worse. Makes for some good sunset photos on occasion. Keep using that sunscreen!

  2. Jason Floyd
    May 15, 2017 at 10:20 am

    When does it usually disappear? Or is it visible the whole summer?

    • News of St. John
      News of St. John
      May 15, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      It’s usually on and off throughout the summer.

  3. Eric on St John
    May 15, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Sunsets are a bonus, but the real upside is the impediment to hurrican intensity & formation http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-glossary/saharan-dust-how-does-it-devel-1/14307927

  4. Tracy Garstka Lasiter
    May 28, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    I recently visited St. Thomas during the Sarahan dust event. I’m a geek for these type of things so found it very cool!
    Images taken May 21 – 24th, 2017. I hope you enjoy!

    https://youtu.be/TmrSNcbjyYs

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