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Saharan dust leads to hazy sky, lower air quality across the Southeast

Trade winds off the coast of Africa are blowing dust from the Sahara Desert across the Atlantic Ocean and into the United States.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa is being carried across the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in a hazy sky and decreased air quality in parts of the United States.

High pressure in the northern Atlantic Ocean provides easterly winds from Africa toward North America. These are typically known as the trade winds.

If the conditions are right, dust from northern Africa can be picked up in these trade winds and carried across the Atlantic Ocean, even reaching as far as the United States.

This Saharan dust leads to a hazy, milky sky and can cause the sun to appear orange or red at sunset.

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Health department officials say this dust also leads to lower air quality, and can cause breathing issues for those in sensitive groups.

They also recommend people with conditions like COPD and asthma limit spending time outdoors until the dust begins to leave the area.

Even generally healthy people may notice shortness of breath if participating in strenuous activities outdoors for long periods of time due to this dust.

There is some good news though. Dense areas of Saharan dust also help to temporarily reduce tropical activity, like tropical storms and hurricanes.

Saharan dust in the United States is not uncommon, especially in the Southeast. There are typically several waves of dust that make their way across the Atlantic Ocean each year, particularly in the summer months.

Forecasters expect the highest concentrations of dust to begin to dissipate by the weekend.

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