Sunshine Villa Florida

Saharan Dust. What Is It And Should You Be Concerned?

saharan dust

If you are in Florida at the moment, you may have noticed how hazy it’s been the last couple days.  That’s because there’s a layer of Saharan dust over Florida that travelled through the atmosphere all the way from the Sahara Desert. That’s an amazing 5,000-mile-long journey!

Known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), this dry dust plume commonly forms from late spring through early fall, moving out into the tropical Atlantic Ocean about every three to five days, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division (HRD).  The HRD says the SAL is typically located between 5,000 and 20,000 feet above the Earth’s surface. It is transported westward by bursts of strong winds and tropical waves located in the central and western Atlantic Ocean at altitudes between 6,500 and 14,500 feet.

Saharan dust is nothing new. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, strong winds can transport dust several thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean, tracking as far west as Texas.

So is it a good thing? We’ve broken it down for you.

The Bad:

Day-time skies may appear a little hazy. You may even notice a little orange dust on your car.

In high doses, Saharan dust can be dangerous. The extremely fine particulates can pose a hazard to those with sensitive lungs, frequently prompting the National Weather Service to issue air-quality alerts. This time around, the aerosol’s concentration is low enough to stay below any threshold for concern.

Iron in the dust can act as a fertilizer, helping trigger a localized red tide bloom.  A study by NOAA & NASA showed that dust from the plains of Africa contains high levels of iron. When this dust settles in the Gulf, a bacteria called Trichodesium converts the iron into nitrogen. Then nitrogen acts as a fertilizer for karenia brevis, the dinoflagellate responsible for red tide.  During the study, the large amount of Saharan Dust arrived on July 1st and by October, red tide had developed in the area with biologically-accessible nitrogen.

This Saharan Dust may end up having no impact on red tide in the Gulf this summer and fall, but it should be one of the variables to watch.  Furthermore, it takes time for this entire process to occur. Even if this current increase in Saharan Dust does have an impact, it could take months to see red tide develop in the impacted area.

The Good:

The arrival of Saharan dust might be good news for Gulf Coast residents & visitors alike, particularly those beleaguered by a destructive 2018 hurricane season. The reason? Saharan dust tends to quell Atlantic hurricane activity.  It’s not the dust that does it per se but, rather, that the dust is a tracer embedded in a layer of desert air. Having air that dry in the middle atmosphere puts a damper on any attempts for a tropical cyclone to form.

Saharan Dust makes for beautiful, vivid sunsets.

You can track the Saharan Air Layer here.

*Image via WINK News

See Which Great Whites Are Swimming In Florida’s Waters Right Now

Florida is surrounded by the ocean which means it’s also surrounded by marine life, including sharks, many of them whom enjoy hanging out in Florida’s vast surrounding bodies of water.

With the help of the tracking devices (and social media), Ocearch brings the ocean marine life to your screen.  Ocearch conducts research expeditions aboard the M/V OCEARCH, which serves as an at-sea laboratory. The M/V OCEARCH contains a 75,000 lb. capacity hydraulic platform designed to safely lift marine animals out of the ocean for access by a multi-disciplined research team.

Animals are caught from tenders, using handlines, and are guided by hand in the water on and off the lift. The animals are then brought to the submerged platform of the M/V OCEARCH vessel and the platform is raised. Once the animals are restrained and hoses of water have been set to enable a continuous flow of fresh seawater over the gills, the science team, made up of researchers and veterinarians, begins its process. Tags such as SPOT, acoustic, and accelerometer are attached, morphometrics are recorded, and samples, such as blood and tissue, are collected.

Ocearch has carefully crafted its procedures to minimize stress and risk to the sharks during research expeditions. From the capture to the release, the tagging, handling, and sampling procedures follow established protocols by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) of participating institutions.

Ocearch and partners have tagged & named several species of sharks (and other animals like loggerhead turtles & whales) and you can follow their aquatic travels through the oceans they call home.

Let’s meet some of the Great Whites currently swimming in Florida’s coastal waters (whom happen to have their own twitter handle. Check it out!)

  1. Miss Costa is a Sub-Adult Female Great White, weighing in at whopping 1668 lbs and a lengthy 12’5″ long. She is currently swimming around just off the gulf coast near Sarasota today!
  2. Hal is an adult male great white and is partial to the eastern side of the Sunshine State; last pinged on March 27th, 2019 – This big boy is 12’6″ long and is pretty heavy at 1420 lbs. He can be found swimming off the coast of Daytona Beach. His name is a tribute to Canada’s Halifax.
  3. Out of all the sharks we have near Florida right now, Katherine is the largest. She weighs exactly 2000 lbs and is a staggering 14’2″ long. Her location was last pinged on Feb 29th, 2019 a bit further out in the water near West Palm Beach.
  4. Caroline is a female great white, 12 ft 9 inches long weighing in at 1348 lbs. She was last pinged March 30, 2019 off the Cape Canaveral coast.
  5. Miss May is 10 ft 2 inches and was last pinged March 30th, 2019 off the Atlantic coast near the Florida/Georgia border.

You can see where these and more sharks are right now by tracking them on Ocearch’s shark tracker