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Unusually Intense Saharan Dust Plume Makes Its Way Toward The U.S.

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NASA Worldview
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Each year, according to NASA, hundreds of millions of tons of dust is picked up from deserts in Africa.  That dust plume, known as the Saharan Air Layer, blows across the Atlantic Ocean and helps build beaches in the Caribbean.  It also fertilizes soil in the Amazon.  And it can impact air quality in North America.  The dust plume is unusually intense this year.  The latest data from NASA shows the plume had spread over 2000 miles. 

Drew Albert, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Springfield office, doesn’t expect impacts to air quality in southwest Missouri, but we could see the dust affect the area in other ways.

"Certainly, we're not expecting any changes in our day to day weather in terms of showers and thunderstorms, but what it might do, and certainly, this has been seen before is it might give our blue sky--make it a little hazier or milky in appearance and then where you really might see it is the sunrises and sunsets--it might make them a little more vibrant and a little more red, especially if you can get some higher cloud cover in there," said Albert.

It’s unusual for the Saharan dust plume to reach this far north, he said, but it’s not unprecedented.

The dust is expected to reach Texas by Thursday morning and move east across the U.S. over the weekend.