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“Godzilla” Dust Cloud From the Sahara Desert Makes Its Way To The U.S.

The massive dust cloud will spread into parts of the U.S. through the weekend, likely reducing air quality in parts of the South and possibly the Midwest and mid-Atlantic, according to the Weather Channel.

Noaa.gov//Image of dust blowing off the Sahara Desert from the NOAA-20 satellite, June 2020.

An immense dust cloud from the Sahara Desert has made its way to the U.S. Though the phenomenon happens every year, experts say 2020’s dust levels are particularly large and may exacerbate respiratory problems in individuals who are already vulnerable because of the coronavirus. 

 

The Saharan Air Layer is created by strong winds over the Sahara Desert in Africa that whip up sand around this time of year and carry it over the Atlantic Ocean. Though this happens annually, 2020’s dust cloud is the most dense it’s been in years, according to NASA’s MODIS satellite records.

 

What many are calling the “Godzilla” dust cloud hit the Caribbean and most of the Gulf of Mexico this week before traveling toward the U.S, creating “hazardous” air quality levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency's AirNow monitoring map shows that the dust is already affecting air quality in some southern parts of the U.S. AccuWeather expert senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski also said the air quality could drop to “moderate” or “unhealthy” this weekend over South and East Texas because of the dust.

"So, people with respiratory issues should not spend any long periods of time outdoors,” Kottlowski told USA Today. “Some people with severe respiratory conditions may just want to stay indoors." 

The risk for those with existing respiratory issues is even greater because of the coronavirus outbreak, as the “Godzilla” dust cloud comes while COVID-19 cases are surging in Texas and other states, including Florida. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has paused the state’s reopening plan because of the state’s massive spike. 

The Weather Channel reported that the dust will continue to spread into parts of the U.S. through the weekend, likely reducing air quality in parts of the South and possibly parts of the Midwest and mid-Atlantic. The dust may also create hazy skies as well as “brilliant sunrises and sunsets,” the Weather Channel said.