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The Saharan Air Layer (SAL) is a mass of hot, dry, and dusty air that forms over the Sahara Desert in North Africa during the summer months. The SAL is composed of sand, dust, and other particulate matter that is lifted into the atmosphere by strong winds, known as the Harmattan, and carried westward over the Atlantic Ocean.

Sahara Dust is the term used to describe the fine, dry particles of sand and dust that are carried by the SAL over long distances. These particles can be carried across the Atlantic Ocean and can reach as far as the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and even the southeastern United States. The amount of Sahara Dust that reaches these regions can vary from year to year depending on a variety of factors, including wind patterns, rainfall, and other weather patterns.

The impact of Sahara Dust on the weather can be significant. The fine particles can reduce visibility, causing haziness or even brownish-orange skies in extreme cases. Additionally, the dust particles can also impact air quality, especially for those with respiratory issues. However, Sahara Dust can also have a positive impact on the weather by suppressing the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes. The dry and stable air associated with the SAL can limit the development of thunderstorms and tropical disturbances that can lead to more severe weather events.

The regions that are most affected by Sahara Dust are typically those in the Caribbean, Central America, and the southeastern United States. The dust can have a significant impact on the local weather conditions, including reduced visibility, air quality concerns, and changes in temperature and humidity levels. Additionally, the dust particles can have an impact on marine ecosystems, leading to reduced visibility for marine life and potentially impacting their ability to find food or avoid predators.

Image source: Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC), University of Wisconsin-Madison

Current Saharan Air Layer (Americas and Caribbean Focus):

Current Saharan Air Layer (Africa Focus):

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