Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Feel Dusty in Here? Texas Gets a Visit From the Sahara

Photo by DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images

Texas isn't the only place that gets a visit from Saharan dust. In this photo, dust and mist from the Sirocco, a Mediterranean wind that comes from the Sahara, obscure the moon above the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife on March 9, 2011.

If the sky looked a little hazier here in Texas over the weekend, it’s not necessarily air pollution you were seeing. Rather it was likely the result of extreme weather a half a world away.

Every now and again, massive sandstorms kick up in the Saharan Desert. That would normally go unnoticed in Central Texas, except when the dust from those storms is picked up by Atlantic trade winds, as it is around this time every year.

“And these trade winds will actually transport the dust all the way across the Atlantic all the way through the Caribbean, all the way through the Gulf of Mexico, and they then end up in Texas,” says Bob Rose, chief meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority. He says that’s what happened this past weekend.

Now, to be clear, the dust we’re talking about is only a fraction of the circumference of a human hair. So that’s why we didn’t see a sandstorm of Lawrence of Arabia proportions.

But you may have noticed hazier skies. Tim Oram with the national weather service says that the annual event does serve as a reminder of how interconnected we all are.

“In the Pacific Northwest they’ll see the dust from China. Our weather influences other peoples weather as well,” Oram says.

The Saharan dust is expected to blow past us and into the Midwest by the beginning of this week.


About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »