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Saharan dust may produce spectacular sunrises and sunsets while suppressing hurricane development

Health experts also warn of hazards for people suffering respiratory issues
Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 10:25 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A weather phenomenon 5,000 miles away could bring yellow and orange skies to South Louisiana later this week.

“The Saharan air layer, or Saharan dust, is actually generated by wind storms that move across the Saharan desert, out over the Atlantic and then, ride the trade winds,” said FOX 8 meteorologist Shelby Latino.

So thick is the giant plume of dust it can actually be seen on satellite imagery.

Forecasters expect the plume to reach South Louisiana Wednesday, but be more noticeable toward the weekend.

With light refracting and reflecting off dust particles high up in the atmosphere, Latino said, “that’s why you get those orange views out there sometimes.

It also can simply appear extra hazy, Latino said.

For people in hurricane-prone areas, the dust and dry air bring the added benefit of suppressing tropical weather.

“Hurricanes, tropical storms, they love moisture,” Latino said. “So, when we have that dry air, it helps to keep them at bay.”

However, health experts warn the Saharan dust plume will bring some hazards for people suffering from asthma or other respiratory issues as some of those dust particles at 30-thousand feet, inevitably fall to the earth.

“If you have any respiratory conditions, you want to make sure you protect yourself,” said Dr. Eric Griggs, a health educator. “It’s a natural occurrence, but it doesn’t happen often and this is a big deal.”

Griggs advises patients be extra careful later this week about exposure to the outdoors.

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