What is the Saharan Dust cloud and will it affect you?

Saharan Dust cloud - What you need to know

A plume of dust from Africa will soon finish its 5,000-mile journey across the Atlantic and filter into the United States this week.

The dust, known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), is clearly visible on satellite images. The dust has moved into the Caribbean Sea, and forecasters say it is on the way to the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the United States this week.

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Is a dust plume from Africa uncommon?

No, the dust plumes are a common occurrence. They blow off the Saharan Desert beginning in late spring and continuing through the fall. About once a week during that time, plumes move west and out into the Atlantic.

If they are big enough – like the one everyone is talking about now – they can move thousands of miles across the Atlantic.

Should you worry?

No, you shouldn’t. The dust can cause allergy sufferers to experience an increase in symptoms, but, according to NASA, the plume will be primarily at higher altitudes allowing for some colorful sunrises and sunsets.

Sunsets for the next few days should be brilliant in the southern United States thanks to a cloud of dust moving across the Atlantic Ocean and into the region.
Sunsets for the next few days should be brilliant in the southern United States thanks to a cloud of dust moving across the Atlantic Ocean and into the region. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images/PA Images via Getty Images)