Florida Set to Have Incredible Orange Skies As Massive Saharan Dust Cloud Approaches

An enormous Saharan dust cloud is set to hit Florida this week, having traveled close to 5,000 miles all the way from the coast of Africa.

The plume of dust particles is currently moving across the Atlantic and is predicted to arrive in the Sunshine State by the middle of the week.

The dust will be thickest over the Florida peninsula on Wednesday and will stick around through to at least Saturday next week, Fox 13 reports.

The phenomenon is also set to bring picturesque sunrises and sunsets to the region with more pronounced orange, red and pink hues resulting from light scattering off the dust particles.

The sun is also expected to sit lower on the horizon, meaning its light has to travel through more of the Earth's atmosphere, producing more stunning scenes.

"We should see some nicer sunsets," National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Sedlock told Jacksonville.com.

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The plume appears every year and is the result of atmospheric conditions in the Sahara desert in Africa at this time of year.

Upwards of 60 million tons of tiny sand and mineral particles are swept up off the surface of the Sahara desert by winds. These particles are then carried by updrafts into an extremely dry and hot air mass known as the Saharan Air Layer which forms above the desert around 2 miles thick between late spring and early fall.

Strong winds frequently blow this dust-laden air layer—which extends between altitudes of 5,000 and 20,000 feet—westwards during this period of the year, transporting dust thousands of miles across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, and U.S. Gulf Coast.

Experts warn the dust plume could have an impact on people with respiratory problems and underlying lung conditions. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America said dust particles released from the Sahara plume could make asthma and allergy symptoms worse. It advises people to close their windows, use air cleaner, wear a mask and check the air quality before going outside or avoid outdoor activities.

Despite the potential health risks, the dust may also provide some significant benefits. Scientists think that the dry, dusty Saharan Air Layer may help to suppress the development of hurricanes and more minor tropical storms.

"Saharan dust changes the regional climate by reflecting and absorbing the sunlight, which decreases the sea surface temperature," Bowen Pan from Texas A&M University's Department of Atmospheric Sciences, previously told Newsweek. "[This] decreases the energy supply to the storms. Additionally, dust also stabilizes the atmosphere."

Some of the nutrient-laden dust even reaches the Amazon region in South America where it sprinkles into the ocean, feeding the marine life, and similarly plant life once it makes landfall, according to NASA.

"Minerals like iron and phosphorus in the dust act as a fertilizer for the Amazon rainforest, Earth's largest and most biodiverse tropical forest," explained NASA in a statement in April about a study predicting "less Saharan dust in future winds."

"Rains wash many of these valuable nutrients from the soil into the Amazon river basin, making the nutrient delivery from Africa important for maintaining healthy vegetation."

In June 2020, a "Godzilla" dust plume traveled from the Sahara across the Atlantic ocean to the southeastern U.S. It was one of the biggest dust clouds recorded in 50 years.

Experts nicknamed the plume "Godzilla," with Pablo Méndez Lázaro, from the School of Public Health at the University of Puerto Rico, telling the Associated Press: "This is the most significant event in the past 50 years. Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands."

Sahara Desert
File photo: Blue skies and drifting sand dunes in the Sahara Desert, Morocco. An enormous Saharan dust cloud is set to hit Florida. Tim Graham/Getty Images