April 2015 – SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CMC) – Dust particles from sand storms in the Sahara desert have blanketed sections of the Caribbean, affecting air quality in the region. Each year, Saharan dust storms pass through the region, usually in the spring and summer months. Meteorologist with the National Weather Service here, David Sanchez says the dust cloud is a significant event when it comes to the quality of dust in the air. “It’s basically high pressure across the Atlantic and all levels of the atmosphere that brings the dust in.”
The dust also raises the heat index, making the air feel quite hot. It is not just sticking around through the end of the week, it is going to get worse, Sanchez said. The dust, which comes from the Sahara Desert, causes the skies around the region to be hazy, which reduces visibility and results in poor air quality. As a result of the dust storms and warm air, the sand rises above the desert and is carried from North Africa west over the Atlantic Ocean and across the Caribbean.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Saharan Air Layer can act to weaken a tropical cyclone by promoting downdrafts around the storm, while its strong winds can substantially increase the vertical wind shear in and around the storm environment. Saharan dust is not harmful; however, people with allergies or respiratory ailments should remain indoors when possible and consult their physician or health care professional for further guidance. –Jamaica Observer