The Saharan Air Layer (SAL) officially swept into Deep East Texas Thursday with the Toledo Bend area experiencing the dusty skyline.
Signs of the SAL were on the horizon early Friday with a hazy skyline visible even through the clouds and rain. This initial round of dust is expected to be the thickest through Saturday evening when it will slowly pass over becoming lighter on Sunday and Monday.
This is not the last we will see of this dusty air mass as it is expected to become thicker in the first few days of July.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes the SAL as exceptionally dry, dusty air that forms over the Sahara Desert and moves out over the North Atlantic Ocean every three to five days. This dusty layer can be found from 5,000 up to 20,000 feet in the atmosphere where strong upper-level winds can carry this dusty layer to the Caribbean Sea and into the Gulf of Mexico.
This mass of dry dusty air can weaken tropical systems and is beneficial during hurricane season, which we have already been warned will be a hectic one.
This layer of dust hovering over the Gulf of Mexico can cause outbreaks of specific types of toxic algal bloom and can have a significant impact on our air quality. Residents with respiratory issues and those with allergies or asthma will want to be cautious about time spent outdoors during these dusty events.
Not all of the effects of this Saharan dust are negative. The hazy sky makes for incredible sunrises and sunsets. The dry air, along with the accompanying winds, helps to reduce the chance of the development of tropical storms and keeps the atmosphere mostly stable.
Chances of rain over the weekend may bring some of the dust down to the surface but likely it will linger in the air above us until the mass finally passes through.