A second batch of Saharan dust is on its way to the United States, but forecasters say it’s not expected to be as thick as the one that hit the Gulf Coast last week.
The second dust plume is predicted to reach the Gulf of Mexico this week, affecting a number of southern states.
The dust can cause poor air quality and irritate those with allergies and asthma.
But on the upside, it can also create spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
The colors that we see at sunrise and sunset are created by light scattering. The scattered sunlight is enhanced by water particles or pollutants, like dust, in the atmosphere.
When more dust is present, there are more particles in the atmosphere for light to refract off of, and in return we’ll see more bright shades of red, orange, yellow and pink.
Last week, another dust plume made its way to the U.S. from the Sahara Desert 6,000 miles away. Tiny individual dust particles combine to make a large plume so big that it can be picked up on satellite images and even be seen from the International Space Station.
This might seem to work against typical weather patterns, but dust in the United States from the Sahara happens every year. While it may not be abnormal to see the Saharan dust make its annual journey to the United States, we are expected to see more of it than usual.
This year, the dust has been worst it’s been in decades.
“This is the most significant event in the past 50 years,” Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico, previously said.