Saharan dust plume to reach Mississippi this week

If you haven’t heard yet, the Saharan air layer will be making its way to Mississippi by the end of this week.

While it is an annual occurrence for large amounts of dust to be carried west towards the southern United States during the summertime months, this year is a bit different as “it is an exceptionally thick plume of dust,” according to Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) meteorologist Kelly Richardson.

“This is not a new phenomenon by any means. Typically, late spring through the summer and into the early fall, we quite often actually get these dust plumes that comes off the coast of western Africa and travel across the Atlantic,” she explained. “It just so happens that this time around, it is an exceptionally thick plume of dust. In fact, it’s the thickest that some scientists have seen in multiple decades.”

By no means should people expect a dust-filled scene from a 1950s John Wayne movie, however, a “hazier” sky with a decreased level of air quality should be expected.

“It will result in those hazy skies and also some poor air quality for those that are a little bit more sensitive [or] have asthma,” Richardson continued.

A massive dust plume heading directly towards us may sound intimidating, but don’t be fooled as the dust is actually bringing along two positives with it: a sudden halt to an already overactive hurricane season and a handful of vibrant sunsets.

“It’s definitely going to limit (hurricane) development as [the dust] is going to limit air from rising, plus you have some pretty strong winds that are associated with these tropical waves that are bringing the dust westward through the Atlantic, and in order to have tropical development, you need a low wind field,” Richardson said. “Also, the dust really does create some really neat sunsets.”

As Thursday and Friday are going to be the days in which Mississippi sees the most dust, make sure to double down on the allergy medicine and mark your calendars for some beautiful weekend sunsets.