TYLER, Texas — Heads up East Texas, Saharan Dust is headed this way.
That might sound scary, a bit doom and gloomish, but don't worry, it happens about every year. Usually right around this time of year too. It's called the Saharan Dust Layer.
It's a dust cloud that forms every year thanks to storms in the African Saheel region. That region borders the Sahara desert. The trade winds send plumes of dust across the Atlantic and into the Gulf of Mexico.
We track it here in the CBS 19 Weather center. Satellites pick it up when the dust layer is thick and this year it's thick enough to track. We're better at it now because of advanced satellites that can tell how much power is lost as sunlight passes through the atmosphere.
The fancy name is Aerosol Optical Thickness or A-O-T. But all that jargon aside, here's the birds-eye view of what that looks like from space.
The S-A-L is the tan shaded area over Havana and the Yucatan Peninsula. The layer or air driving the dust plume across the Atlantic is about a mile above the surface. It stays there due in part to strong winds, very dry air and very warm temperatures.
These elevated dust clouds can suppress tropical storm and hurricane development in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Using the same A-O-T data can we forecast where the Saharan Air Layer is headed. This particular forecast pushes the dust plume into the Gulf of Mexico and into parts of East Texas by Sunday.
Here's a look at the forecasted location of the Saharan Dust Sunday.
What we will likely notice here in East Texas will be colorful sunsets this weekend. If you are sensitive to air quality you may notice some added difficulty in breathing and some of us will have allergy symptoms at a time of the year when we usually don't experience any.
Some dust may already be in our atmosphere and that might explain why allergy numbers have been a little higher than usual this week. That happens because Saharan dust is not the usual kind of dust we find in the piney woods.
The dust doesn't pose any serious threat but it could do something else. We are forecasting rain and thunderstorms starting Sunday morning and lasting into Monday morning.
Sometimes, Saharan dust can suppress thunderstorm development causing the sky to remain hazy for days and can lead to hotter days. We do turn hotter the second half of next week and Saharan Dust may play a role.
There is an upside to Saharan dust. Our sunsets should look should be as colorful as the sunset Friday evening over Nacogdoches.
Remember to share your sunrise and sunset pictures with us. You can text us the pictures (903) 600-2600 or email us weather@CBS19.tv