ORLANDO, Fla. - Although the Sahara Desert is more than 6,500 miles away, did you know its mineral dust can travel across the Atlantic Ocean and affect weather in Central Florida?
The Saharan Air Layer (SAL) is an air mass made up of a mostly dry, warm and occasionally dust-filled layer in the atmosphere that lingers over the 3-million-square-mile African desert.
Stronger trade winds during late spring through early fall can pick up chunks of the Saharan dust and transport it thousands of miles across the Atlantic and toward the United States, according to News 6 meteorologist Candace Campos.
The SAL can travel at an average speed of 1,000 kilometers per day. At this speed, it can take about a full week to travel from the west coast of Africa to the Caribbean Sea and Florida.
While it makes its trek over the open waters, the dry and stable air mass also affects the weather around it.
Jun 25 | Wondering about the hazy skies recently? Well there's a big plume of Saharan Dust over much of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Southeast US! The satellite image from this morning shows the dust plume is well defined across much of the area. pic.twitter.com/gtIJS9QQLl — NWS Melbourne (@NWSMelbourne) June 25, 2019
For example, SAL has been known to weaken tropical cyclones and inhibit overall tropical development in the Atlantic and Caribbean, according to Campos.
Besides bringing a slight haze to the sky locally, Saharan dust can play a role in keeping our rain chances relatively low, as well as delivering some gorgeous red and orange sunrises and sunsets.
Most of the time, the amount of particles in the air is not dangerously high in Central Florida, but if you have any respiratory issues, your best bet is to stay inside while the dust is present, Campos said.
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