The Saharan Air Layer, a large area of dust originating from the Saharan Desert in Africa, has made for dusty and filtered skies over much of the tropical Atlantic so far this summer. As disturbances or stronger bouts of wind tracks west from the African coast and across the Atlantic Ocean, high concentrations of dust are often carried with them and can track as far west as Central America.

GOES-16 geocolor satellite imagery highlights the large concentrations of dust over the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea on Thursday.

Most recently, most of the Caribbean Sea has been dealing with the dust-filled skies this week, lowering visibilities while adding an eery tint to the sky. In some cases, air quality can become lowered to dangerous levels for some, possibly leading to respiratory issues.

On Wednesday, the Saharan Air Layer made for an odd-looking environment in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic.

Now while this dust can be seen as a negative, it can come with a couple positives as well. That includes enhanced colors in the sky at sunrise and sunset, allowing for breathtaking views. Chris Birchfield, a meteorologist in Texas, was visiting the newly-built radar on Puerto Rico shortly before sunset, noting how the African dust made for a “beautiful and hazy view.”

A second positive is how dust has a negative impact on tropical cyclones. These cyclones, including tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes, rely on warm, moist air. The Saharan Air Layer indicates a dry air mass, which therefore suppresses the convection associated with these storms and furthermore prevents tropical development from occurring.

In the short-range, these outbreaks of dust will continue to cross the tropical Atlantic waters, and may even make an appearance in South Florida this weekend.


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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