Why a Saharan Mud Storm Is Heading for the US

A boat speeds across a bay in front of a shoreline enveloped in a haze. The air is gray, and the mountains and buildings are barely visible.
A mud cloud from the Sahara sits over the town of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday.
Ricardo Arduengo/Getty Photographs

In what seems to be the newest biblical plague of 2020, an almost 4,000-mile-long mud storm from the Sahara Desert is presently headed towards the southeastern coast of the US.

This mud plume, referred to as the Saharan Air Layer, is a phenomenon that develops yearly off the coast of Africa, the place highly effective winds from thunderstorms over the Sahel can push the mud many hundreds of ft up into the environment. A couple of instances a yr, that layer of mud sends out huge clouds that then drift over the ocean.

However this yr, the mud clouds that usually do little greater than amplify sunsets have drifted far decrease to coat Caribbean islands with a skinny layer of mud and choke the air with a dry haze that in some locations minimize visibility by greater than half. The cloud is forecast to comb throughout the southeastern United States—Texas and Louisiana specifically—on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. One other wave of mud is anticipated to comply with.

In keeping with the New York Times, in these areas affected by the mud, some folks with bronchial asthma and underlying lung situations could be in danger for irritation and discomfort. These residents ought to keep away from out of doors actions and monitor the air high quality.

One good high quality of those plumes is that they usually squash any early hurricane formations with their dry air. However in line with the Washington Post, the mud may also deposit sufficient iron into the Gulf of Mexico to spur harmful and noxious algal blooms. It’s additionally potential a few of the microbes and nutrients carried within the mud play an necessary position in native ecosystems.

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