Weather Facts: Saharan Dust

The haze that has been hanging over the area for weeks has traveled all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. It's Saharan dust and normally arrives this time of year.

Each year on average 182 million tons of dust travels from Africa to the Atlantic Basin. 43 million of it reaches the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The storms that travel across Africa generate more dust and hot air than rain. When the air heats up, powerful updrafts are born forcing the dust as high as 15,000 feet allowing it to travel the world. With high pressure centered over the northern Atlantic the dust has the green light to travel with the tropical trade winds right into our neighborhoods.

The hazy skies have been worse this year because we don't have enough rain in the tropics to clean out the air. NOAA is tracking more huge plumes of dust traveling over the Atlantic so expect more hazy days and moderate levels of air quality in the coming weeks.

This ultra-dry dusty air is also sucking the life out of the tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa. It is very hard to get a tropical system when the air is dry and there are no clouds. The dust dries out the air and the vertical wind shear helps tear up the clouds before they become rain machines. If this dusty trend continues, the outlook showing a below average hurricane season may come true.

If you have a weather question feel free to email meteorologist Zack Shields at or check him out on Twitter and Facebook.