NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — If you’re looking for a colorful sunrise or sunset this week, you may be in luck.
A plume of dust, known as the Saharan Air Layer, will travel across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Gulf Coast over the weekend.
Weather models show the dust moving into the Gulf of Mexico late Saturday and sticking around through mid-week. It will be most visible for residents along the northern and northwestern Gulf Coast from Sunday through Wednesday, weather depending.
During the day, the dust will make otherwise clear skies appear hazy or milky. The dust in the upper-levels of the atmosphere will also create vibrant sunrises and sunsets by refracting red light from the Sun.
The Saharan Air Layer is a mass of very dry, dusty air that forms over the Sahara Desert during the late spring, summer, and early fall.
The Saharan Air Layer can be found beginning about 1 mile above the Earth’s surface and is usually 2 to 2.5 miles thick.
Saharan Dust activity typically ramps up in mid-June and peaks from late June to mid-August, with outbreaks occurring every three to five days on average.
People with respiratory issues may need to limit time spent outdoors when dust levels are elevated. Those that are unusually sensitive to dust may experience allergy-like symptoms including eye and nose irritation, sneezing, and post-nasal drip.
The good news: the warmth, dryness, and strong winds associated with the Saharan Air Layer tends to suppress tropical storm activity.