Massive dust cloud headed toward US

A cloud of dust kicked up from the Sahara Desert traveled across the Atlantic and hit central Florida, WFTV in Orlando reported Wednesday.  

The dust plume, referred to as the Saharan Air Layer, is a common occurrence during the summer. Dry dusty air forms into a mass from the desert and travels over the North Atlantic Ocean, creating a thick layer that takes up between 2 and 2.5 miles of the atmosphere. 

Because of the way light reflects off the dust particles, the dust plume enhances the yellow and red hues in sunrises and sunsets, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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“Sunsets and sunrises take on more yellow and reddish hues because the low-angle sunlight passes through more of the atmosphere before it reaches your eyes. A heavy load of dust in the atmosphere can enhance this effect, leading to longer-lasting, duskier colors that cause vivid sunsets and sunrises,” NOAA explained on its website. 

The dust activity peaks between late June and mid-August, and it can reach as far west as Florida, Central America and Texas. 

Health experts say the dust layer could pose health issues for people with asthma and allergies. 

“In general, it is important that people with asthma and other chronic lung diseases take precautions to maintain control of their underlying conditions and reduce exposure to dust by limiting time outdoors during dust storms,” according to NOAA.