Large plumes of dust, known as the Saharan Air Layer, have been drifting westward across the Atlantic Ocean the past month or two, and no signs show this stopping as robust plumes continue to move offshore from the Saharan Desert. These large plumes of dust suppress tropical cyclone activity. This is due to the fact that thunderstorms rely on moist air to form. With the presence of dry air, that chokes off any present thunderstorms and keeps them weak. Now while these areas of high dust concentration are common this year, it often doesn’t become as widespread as we describe below.

GOES-16 satellite imagery can even see this large Saharan Air Layer trekking across the Atlantic (highlighted in a brown shade), over a region dubbed the Main Development Region, or MDR. The MDR is an area that features the most tropical cyclone activity during the peak of hurricane season in August and September, and is often the origin of the most intense hurricanes that affect countries like the US.

GOES-16 geocolor satellite imagery highlighting the large Saharan Air Layer moving west across the Atlantic Ocean Thursday morning.

Based on the model guidance, some of this dust will actually move into parts of the United States late-week. This does happen more than you may think each year. Florida is the most common state for this dust to move in during the summer, but states as far west of Texas will deal with dust from this most recent plume. Beginning Saturday evening, dust will begin to be carried into the Texas Gulf coast thanks to high pressure over the Eastern US directing it in this direction. It’s not until Sunday and Monday when this dust will work farther north into the Central and Southern Plains and parts of the Mississippi River Valley.

Loop of dust concentration through July 3rd. The dust is highlighted by the different color shades. The greatest concentrations are denoted by the orange and yellows. Credit:

By mid-next week, this dust may remain present in some areas, but much of it will become spread out, lowering its concentration.

Cities like Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, and Omaha may all experience lower air quality due to this dust. This dust will be harmless for almost everyone, thankfully. One of the cool positives of this dust are the enhanced colors at sunrise and sunset.

The dust will be present across much of the Caribbean Sea this week and weekend. In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the sky was very dusty but made for this phenomenal sunset Tuesday evening.


Jackson is Head of Content at WeatherOptics and produces several forecasts and manages all social media platforms. Previously, Jackson forecasted local weather for southwestern Connecticut, founding his website, Jackson's Weather, in the March of 2015. He is currently studying Meteorology and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Miami.

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