Massive Saharan dust plum inhibiting storm development, but wreaking havoc on allergy, respiratory illness sufferers

Over the next several days, a large plume of Saharan dust is expected to affect the region. 

On one hand, according to meteorologists, the dust’s presence will greatly inhibit the development of new tropical disturbances in what is expected to be an above average 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. With 97 percent of the hurricane season still lying ahead, this is only a small comfort as new tropical disturbances continue to roll off the west coast of Africa.

On the other hand, however, persons with respiratory illnesses, allergies, pulmonary disease and other sensitivities will need to take precautions as the dust can trigger or aggravate these conditions. 

Persons may also experience dry, sore or itchy eyes, runny noses and sore throat.

The worst of the dust is expected to begin impacting the region today into the weekend.

To minimise the negative impact of the dust, it is a good idea to stay indoors when possible, use HEPA filters in your home and office to purify the air and use a mask when outdoors. 

Persons who use medications to control respiratory or pulmonary illnesses are advised to keep them close to hand. If you experience difficulty breathing, contact your doctor or emergency services right away.

“The tropics are on pause for now. Saharan dust is dominating the tropical Atlantic. Even though robust tropical disturbances are moving off Africa, they can’t develop as they move west,” said US-based hurricane specialist meteorologist on Tuesday. 

“When Saharan dust is present in the atmosphere, it creates a dry and stable layer, making it difficult for thunderstorms to organise and grow into tropical storms or hurricanes. This phenomenon is called the Saharan Air Layer (SAL).”

The Saharan Air Layer (SAL), forms over the Saharan desert every spring, extending one to three miles above the surface and reaching thousands of miles in length.

Outbreaks usually occur every three to five days until they peak in mid-June through mid-August.

The dust is also known to produce colourful which are easily identified  by their yellow and red hues.

This year is projected to be one of the most active seasons on record, with 24 named storms predicted, 11 of which are expected to develop into hurricanes.

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