Saharan Dust Storms
Posted by: Communications Team | June 29, 2020
The next strange and somewhat interesting event has arrived in Houston, the Saharan Dust Storms. This one different is the largest dust storm on over 50 years with dust reaching 20,000 feet in the air and covering down to ground level – and named “Godzilla” by the Associate Press.
Creation of Saharan Dust Storms
In the vast expanse of arid desert land across North Africa, the temperatures soar to over 110° F. The hot air rises carrying the desert dust with it. High winds carry the floating dust to the coast where the western trade winds push the dust across the Atlantic Ocean.
A second dust storm is now crossing the Atlantic and is likely to dissipate rapidly due to high winds while bringing an appreciable amount of dust to the Gulf Coast.
Effects of the Dust
For people who have respiratory issues, take care. The dust can drop the air quality level from moderate to unhealthy. If you must go out, a cloth mask is recommended. Be sure that you are wearing, storing, and washing your face mask correctly.
While the dust storms usually give us spectacular sunrises and sunsets, these two storms are heavily laden with too much dust for doing much besides making the sky milky and grey.
Saharan Dust Mimics Covid-19 Symptoms
Both Covid-19 and Saharan Dust can cause similar symptoms according to Dr. Tim Connolly, pulmonologist at Houston Methodist.
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Mild chest pain
"While both share some symptoms in common, an adverse reaction to the dust shouldn't cause fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal issues or loss of smell," Dr. Connolly explains. "If you're experiencing any of these non-respiratory symptoms in addition to one of more of the respiratory symptoms above, call your doctor for guidance."
On the Positive Side
The National Weather Service says that the dust suppresses the development of tropical systems, just in the short-term.
Dust contains a variety of minerals and nutrients, such as iron and phosphorus. As dust sprinkles out of the air, these nutrients may help fuel local ecosystems.
Saharan dust storms are thought to be one important source of phosphorus for plants in the Amazon rainforest.
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Sources: ABC13, Houston Methodist, NOAA, Accuweather, Scientific American