Saharan dust invades the Mountain State


CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – On top of the rain and storm chances this weekend, another thing that’s temporarily visiting north-central West Virginia is the dust from Saharan Air Layer.

This isn’t another 2020-esque plague or even “The Mummy” come to life; it visits every summer from Africa across the Atlantic Ocean into North America. This year, it’s just a bit denser than normal.

So what exactly is it?

The dust from the Sahara Desert travels through the lower and middle levels of the atmosphere across the Atlantic Ocean into North America.

This year, there is a strong high pressure in the Gulf of Mexico that will pull the dust northward. That southerly flow will pump in heat and moisture towards us here in the Mountain State along with the dusty air.

This dust brings particulates into the air which could lower air quality. Because of the dirty air, people with respiratory issues and/or asthma could face negative health effects; this does include shortness of breath and asthma attacks due to the dust, among other things.

It also causes hazy skies which could look like fog or an extra cloud layer to some. The haze, paired with the right sun angle at dusk, will bring beautiful sunsets similar to what we have seen over the past week.

This will not impact rain and thunderstorm chances across the region. Why?

There is a lot of moisture with the incoming storms for the weekend. That moisture is coming from the upper levels of the atmosphere.

In addition, the high pressure in the Gulf of Mexico will bring tropical moisture from the southwest into Appalachia. The combination of the wet and juicy tropical air and the upper level moisture keep the rain in play and will supersede the dust coming in.

The best chance for a beautiful, but dusty sunset is Saturday after the storms clear.

Stay tuned to the StormTracker 12 weather team for the latest updates!

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