According to St. Kitts Meteorological Services, the Caribbean region is presently being affected by a plume of Saharan dust, as it makes its annual trek to the region from the Desert.

This expansive plume is expected to affect the islands over the next few days with one or two breaks in between, and has the potential to reduce air quality and visibility, throughout its passage.

The “expansive plume” is currently traveling westward via the Atlantic Ocean and may even make it to parts of the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric agency (USA) by early next week.

According to SCASPA’s Senior Met Officer, Elmo Burke, between March and September each year, a mass of dust or the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) forms over the Desert eventually moving Westward across the Northern Atlantic, every three to five days. The SAL can extend 5,000 to 20,000 feet into the atmosphere, and be transported several thousand miles when winds are particularly strong.

“Due to the impending reduction in air quality, it is recommended that persons with respiratory ailments minimize their outdoor activities, if possible, as this can impact their level of wellness,” Mr. Burke said.

The dry, dusty air associated with the SAL has been known to cause hazy skies along it’s path, as well as toxic algal blooms, according to weather and health experts. One plus to the Sahara Dust or SAL at this time is that it can help to suppress hurricane and tropical storm development in the Atlantic Basin due to its dense, dry air and increased wind shear. This can be some, albeit short-lived, good news for countries located within the Hurricane Belt.

“This is a regular phenomenon during this time of the year”, Elmo Burke said, “and our advice to persons with respiratory issues is to be aware of the characteristics of this hazard and how to protect yourselves from complications, as a result of the heaviness of the atmosphere.”

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