Saharan Dust Makes Its 2019 Debut

saharan dust rolls in 2019
The view from Casa de Jenn, Feb. 17, 2019

For those of you here on island and those of you who check out our webcams from the states, you may notice a bit of a haze in the sky today and tomorrow. Well that’s not haze you’re looking at, it’s actually Saharan Dust.

It usually happens every spring and summer, but it decided to make its debut a bit early this year. 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.”

The first satellite image shows the amount of dust that’s currently near the Territory. The second shows that it will gone by Wednesday. However there is there is a large swath to our west, so that may come through the territory within the next week.

Today's satellite image of the dust (Feb. 17, 2019)
Today’s satellite image of the dust (Feb. 17, 2019)
Wednesday's forecasted image of the dust (Feb. 20, 2019)
Wednesday’s forecasted image of the dust (Feb. 20, 2019)

You can track the dust layer here.

When the dust arrives, I usually get questions asking how long it arrives. That’s hard to answer other than to say that it comes and goes. Your best bet it to check the forecast using this link. One great thing about the dust is that it makes for great sunsets. So be sure to check out those webcams around 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. as sunset is currently at 6:21 p.m. AST (which is one hour ahead of EST).

That’s all we have for you today. “News” you can use! Have a great Sunday everyone!

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