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African Dust in Texas and its Impacts - 04/08/14

There's been a lot of hype over the dust that is spreading over the southern U.S.  However, this not the first time, nor will it be the last, that we will talk about this in Texas.

Whats going on?
A large plume of dust has rolled off the west coast of Africa and is being carried across the Atlantic and into the U.S.
Here's an enhanced time-lapse of the dust traveling across the Atlantic:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3Q8Sh2AjPo

How are we impacted?
Unlike dust storms, formed by thunderstorms, we can sometimes see in parts of Texas and the southwest, this system is much larger. However, by the time it reaches us, it will be quite thin.  Plus, these dust particles are high in the atmosphere and not as dense as a a locally developed dust storm.

Air Quality
This added dust will cause some air quality issues.  However, on a scale that ranges from good to moderate to unhealthy to hazardous, this will only bring the air quality to a moderate level.
Moderate air quality will only impact those that are unusually sensitive.  If you do have respiratory problems, limit outdoor activity.
Otherwise, most of us will not be impacted.  The only thing you may notice is an added haze in the atmosphere.

Dust and Tropical Storm Development:
This dust may have a small impact on limiting tropical storm development in the Atlantic, which could be part of the reason why the tropics are quiet right now.  The dust not only brings in dry air, which can kill storms that try to develop, but it can also act as a partial sun barrier.  This will cause cooler sea surface temperatures, which can also hinder storm development.
Interestingly though, the southern boundary of this hot desert air in Africa acts like a front.  The wind patterns of this front are the major source of African waves that are often the beginnings of tropical storm formation.

-Allison

Meteorologist Allison Miller
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