Massive Saharan dust plume will reach US Thursday; here’s what you need to know

LOS ANGELES -- Clear, blue skies are turning brown.

A historic Saharan dust plume that blanketed the Caribbean over the weekend is now sweeping toward the Gulf Coast.

The densest plume of dust developed off Western Africa and has traveled nearly 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, the plume of dusty air is likely to reach the United States by Thursday morning, bringing dust particles to the Southern United States.

This dust is expected to stretch from Florida to the Gulf coast to as far west as Texas, and this is likely to cause a deterioration in air quality for sections of the U.S.

According to Sonoma Tech Meteorologist Jeff Beamish, model runs show that this dust is predicted to cause impacts for Texas and Louisiana Thursday, potentially spreading into the central and eastern U.S. by Saturday.

A Saharan Air Layer (or SAL) is a mass of dry and dusty air, which forms over the Sahara Desert and moves over the North Atlantic.

According to NOAA, this dry layer of air usually travels about one mile above the ocean surface. The extremely dry air can inhibit tropical cyclones and activity.

Over the weekend, the Saharan dust reached the Caribbean.

NOAA shared a satellite image of the dust plume. “This particular plume has reportedly spread over the Caribbean, reducing visibility in some areas to five miles.”

Beamish wrote, “The Saharan air layer’s definitely not a new phenomenon. It happens yearly, with varying amounts of dust traversing the Atlantic basin.”