African dust arrived in the Valley


Staff Writer

BROWNSVILLE — A touch of the Sahara will fill the Valley’s skies starting today.

A dust layer called the Saharan Air Layer, which originates from the Saharan Desert in western Africa, has been making its way across the Atlantic Ocean and through the Caribbean toward the Rio Grande Valley.

The large brown haze that can be seen from satellite images released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stretches thousands of miles.

“This Saharan dust will lead to some haziness in the sky, but it won’t be too noticeable,” said Matthew Brady, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station at Brownsville.

“It might be able to help brighten the sunsets with a little more color.”

The arrival of the Saharan dust is a yearly occurrence and is more common during the early hurricane season. Like tropical disturbances that form of Africa’s west coast, easterly winds push the dust mass west across the ocean.

“This actually suppresses tropical storm or hurricane development. A lot of times there is no tropical development or thunderstorms developing because of that dry air,” Brady said. “One reason we had no tropical waves is because of that Saharan dust.”

However, one unpleasant effect of the dust is a possibly increased chance for allergy problems.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has upgraded air quality to moderate for the Brownsville-McAllen area through Saturday.

“There might be a little bit of enhanced allergy suffering because of the Saharan dust moving in,” Brady said.

The dust lifts into the atmosphere because of the arid environment in western Africa, and eventually the mass becomes less and less dense until it disperses, Brady said.