Sahara dust cloud to move through the Heartland

Sahara dust cloud Q & A with Brian Alworth

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Each year dust from the Sahara Desert is transported from Africa to the U.S. by winds, but this year the dust cloud is a bit bigger.

When the surface temp of the desert is over 110ºF, the hot air rises, sometimes over four miles high, carrying dust.

Depending on local weather conditions, high winds can carry the dust to the ocean.

Once over the ocean, the dust cloud can encounter westward-moving trade winds.

The hot, dry, dusty winds are lifted over the trade winds, creating a layer.

The dust is then carried over the Atlantic Ocean toward the Caribbean and the U.S.

As the dust cloud travels, the hot dry air can dampen hurricane activity.

The dust can also prevent sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface, causing temperatures to temporarily cool.

A variety of minerals and nutrients, such as iron and phosphorus can be found in the Saharan dust. This means the dust can help fuel ecosystems, like the Amazon Rainforest.

Microorganisms in water can feed on the iron, making them grow.

Microorganisms like toxic bacterial and algal blooms in coastal areas.

The very same microorganisms can also help reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, helping reduce the Earth’s carbon footprint.

The dust cloud can reduce air quality as it moves through the states.

Once in the Americas, other weather patterns often break up the dust cloud, dispersing it.

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