BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Caribbean countries were dealing with “an abnormally large dust cloud” from the Sahara, with regional authorities describing the 5,000-mile trek across the Atlantic, as “unhealthy and hazardous”.
Dust making the journey from the Sahara to the Gulf Coast is common during June, July and sometimes into early August. Picked up by the Trade Winds and lofted higher up into the atmosphere, the dust gets trapped as the wind spirits it away across the Atlantic.
In Trinidad, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) noted that in some parts of the twin island republic, on a scale from 0-500, the air quality was deemed as 179, which lies in the range of unhealthy, lying in the fourth highest range out of six ranges
“People with heart or lung disease, older adults, children, and people with respiratory ailments and allergies should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.”
For Tobago, the EMA urged, “everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors. People with heart or lung disease, older adults, children, and people with respiratory ailments and allergies should remain indoors and keep activity levels low”.
In Barbados, the Met Office has issued a small craft warning indicating that reduced visibility of 5km or less would affect the marine area, and marine users should stay in port, particularly if GPS is not in use on the vessel.
The Meteorological Service of Jamaica said Monday that a reduction in visibility is expected as a result of haze associated with the Saharan dust and that the strong winds associated with a low-level jet stream are expected to affect the island over the next few days.
It said that hazy conditions are forecast to continue into Thursday.
However, as the dust is carried across the Atlantic, it tends to suppress tropical development.
“It keeps a lid on the atmosphere and brings dry air into anything that may try to develop, which is very detrimental for tropical development which relies on warm, moist air,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert.
However, dust is rarely a factor during the later months of the Atlantic hurricane season — August, September and October — when storms become more active.