New imagery from space released on Thursday (June 25) reveal the massive plume of Saharan dust that has shrouded swathes of the Caribbean and turned blue skies into a milky-brown haze, sparking health warnings across the region as air quality fell to unhealthy levels.
Strong warm winds over the Sahara desert typically whip up sand at this time of year and carry it thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas.
This year, the dust is the most dense in a half a century, according to several meteorologists. The thick smog has sharply reduced visibility.
WOW! A plume of dust seen from space on satellite today coming from the Sahara Desert in North Africa. It’s moving over the Atlantic Ocean and may bring some hazy sunrise and sunsets to parts of the United States this week. #Space #SaharanDust pic.twitter.com/J7ezuMuCkR
— Mark Tarello (@mark_tarello) June 24, 2020
The dust cloud moved into the eastern Caribbean at the weekend and by Tuesday (June 23) had smothered Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and eastern Cuba, continuing its advance up and westward toward Central America and southern United States.
Officials across the region warned locals to remain at home when possible and wear a face mask, especially if they already had a respiratory condition, as the dust was a powerful irritant and could contain pathogens as well as minerals.
The Saharan dust typically “helps build beaches in the Caribbean and fertilizes soils in the Amazon” in addition to affecting air quality, according to NASA, which along with NOAA has captured satellite images of the plume.
Live pictures from space approximately 8:10pm New York City Eastern time zone. COVID-19 STRICKEN U.S. FACES ANOTHER PROBLEM. A LARGE MASSIVE DUST CLOUD FROM AFRICA SAHARA DESERT WILL MOVE INTO THE UNITED STATES TODAY. SKIES GO GRAY OVER FLORIDA GULF OF MEXICO. pic.twitter.com/DCi8RwUDVf
— Carl Parish (@CarlParish4) June 26, 2020
(With Reuters inputs)