A massive dust storm from the Sahara Desert in North Africa will arrive to the U.S. gulf coast this week.
Michael Lowry, a strategic planner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that the yearly phenomena is expected to be particularly strong this year.
The ongoing Saharan #dust outbreak across the tropical Atlantic is *by far* the most extreme of the MODIS satellite record -- our most detailed, continuous record of global dust back to 2002. Daily MDR AOD of 1.66 shatters previous daily record of 1.13 set July 31, 2013. #SAL pic.twitter.com/yv2VW9LUYO— Michael Lowry (@MichaelRLowry) June 24, 2020
“The ongoing Saharan #dust outbreak across the tropical Atlantic is *by far* the most extreme of the MODIS satellite record — our most detailed, continuous record of global dust back to 2002,” Lowry said in a tweet.
The technical name for the phenomenon is the "Saharan Air Layer," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, though some experts have nicknamed this year’s cloud the “Godzilla dust cloud” for its size.
Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico, told Phys.org that the dust cloud “is the most significant event in the past 50 years."
"Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands,” he said.
The dust resulted in reduced visibility when it hit Puerto Rico this week, with its haze completely engulfing the mountains in El Yunque National Forest in northeastern Puerto Rico.
View of El Yunque on a sunny day in March and a hazy day with Saharan dust in June pic.twitter.com/aVRD2pR76z— El Yunque NF (@ElYunqueNF) June 23, 2020
On Thursday the cloud reached the western Caribbean, over Belize and the Yucatán Peninsula, and through most of the central and western Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to reach Texas and Louisiana in the coming days.