MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Every year from mid June through August warm air rising over the Sahara Desert in Northern Africa lifts dust into the atmosphere. That layer rises about a mile above the surface of the planet where it is then carried west across the Atlantic by upper level wind currents. This year due to excessive heat rising off the continent that layer of dust is thicker, as much as two and half miles thick. The first wave carried across the open waters of the Atlantic and into the Caribbean where it created a dusty, hazy sky through the Caribbean Islands limiting visibility in many areas and even leaving a thin layer of dust on objects at the surface. The dust then continued travelling west into the Gulf of Mexico where wind currents have now driven it north into the Gulf Coast and the southeastern U.S.
High pressure will assist in driving the layer of dust north up the lower and middle Mississippi River Valley. Upper level winds coming out of the Plains will then curve the dust layer back to the south and east.
This will allow the dust layer to travel into the Mid-South, but this isn’t a dust storm to be feared and it won’t block the sun in the sky or create the dusty conditions that were experienced in the Caribbean.
This layer of dust may not even be noticed by most people during the day, but you may notice some spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the next few days, The dust particles in the lower and mid levels of the atmosphere will enhance the scattering of sunlight as it comes up over the horizon at sunrise and as it lowers and falls behind the horizon at sunset.
Some particles of dust will likely reach the surface but not a concentration that would create a significant health issue. If you do have breathing difficulty or suffer from lung related illness then it would be beneficial to wear a mask and limit your time outdoors. I you may want to have a camera with you when you are outside in case you have the opportunity to capture a picture of a brilliant sky in the early morning or evening. If you miss this one then just wait because another plume of dust drifted off the African continent Wednesday and will likely follow along the same path.