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 months of April and May, 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.
And here is a pic from when we had zero dust in the territory. You can see that the sky is a bit bluer and the image looks crisper.
Want to know the status of the Saharan Dust? Click here to view current satellite images.
One good thing: The dust creates great sunsets. So check out those webcams around between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Here’s a pic we took Monday night: