Saharan Dust Arrives in the Territory

The dust arrived in the territory this past Saturday.
The dust arrived in the territory this past Saturday.

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.

sarahan dust june 2018

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.

April 2018
April 2018

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:

dust sunset june 4 2018

6 thoughts on “Saharan Dust Arrives in the Territory”

  1. Hi Jenn,
    I was wondering if the Saharan dust was going to show up this year. Thanks for the update. I am a bit behind reading your blog, but wanted to take the opportunity to wish you a happy belated 5th year anniversary blog owner/writer. You have done a great job, and I have enjoyed your posts. Did I read correctly, is there a baby on the way?
    Kind regards,

  2. Will it be gone by late September? Between the red seaweed and now the dust…..we want to come back in the fall so badly!

    • Chris,

      it will be gone by September. Even if it didn’t, it in no means effects your daily life.
      I have seen it many many times.

  3. I’ve been periodically tracking the dust since March and up until about one week ago, the dust was coming across the Atlantic well south of the VIs. But don’t you know it, a few days before I arrive, that dust train took a hard right. Should have figured.

    Here is another site I like to use to track Dust for those interested:


    Hit the play button. Locate Puerto Rico and then look for the two dots to the right of it. They look like a colon : That’s the VIs. The dust tracker predicts the next 5 days with, based on my experience, decent accuracy. Look for the numbers within the brown dust cloud. If it’s over 10, you’re probably going to notice. Under 10, not so much. If it’s over like 25 or 30, welcome to LA.

    That said, it changes all the time and it’s not worth stressing about like me. You could have a blue sky morning and a hazy afternoon. Anyway, what I usually hope for in June is some intermittent blue sky days. If on the dust tracker, you notice the VIs are all blue for an extended period of time, that’s when you head to your favorite beach and take your Christmas card pic 🙂

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