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Large Saharan Dust Plume affects the islands

Large Saharan Dust Plume affects the  islands
Campden Park Bay shrouded by the thick Saharan Dust on Monday afternoon. Visibilty is so poor that Bequia, which is normally visible, cannot be seen.

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A large plume of Saharan dust is affecting the islands, causing low visibility and poor air quality, therefore persons, especially with respiratory issues, are advised to exercise caution.

According to the state’s Meteorological Services based at Argyle, strong trade winds are playing a role in the flow of the vast amount of dust off of Africa’s Sahara Desert.

Large Saharan Dust Plume affects the  islands
Saharan Dust plume as seen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) NOAA-20 satellite on June 17,2020

The 72-hour weather outlook released by the Met Services on Monday indicates that the forecast will be fair to partly cloudy, hazy and breezy, with brief isolated showers.

“Varying concentrations of Saharan Dust will be across the region during the next three days. A gradual thinning of the intrusion is anticipated … [Tuesday] into Wednesday across Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, increasing in thickness by Wednesday night,” they informed.

Winds will be from the East North East at 20 km to 40 km an hour, with swells being from 1.5 m to 2.5 m.

“Small craft operators and sea bathers should exercise caution for above normal sea swells and reduced visibility,” the Meteorological Services emphasize.

They also advise that persons with respiratory concerns should continue to exercise caution due to the poor air quality.

This has been buttressed by the Ministry of Health, who has advised, in a June 19 release, that the haze can cause a dry cough, sore throat, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and runny nose.

“High concentrations of the Saharan dust may severely affect persons with respiratory diseases such as asthma and persons with pre-existing heart disease,” the Ministry warns, and the elderly and children are vulnerable.

“Persons with respiratory issues and allergies are asked to keep with them at all times any and all medications, including asthma inhalers, in case of emergency,” they state, and the Ministry advised that persons may limit their exposure to the dust by staying indoors, and wearing a dust mask if they go outside.

In order to protect the eyes, the Health Ministry further informs, glasses, goggles, or even sunglasses will offer protection from the dust, as well as bacterial and fungal spores that may be in the atmosphere.

“Affected persons should seek medical attention at their nearest health care center if they experience severe symptoms as a result of increasing levels of Saharan dust,” they assert.

The Meteorological Services could not say without referring to the records when last such a large plume was recorded, but at least one online publication,’The Weather Channel’, has reported that it is the thickest it has been in decades.

Other effects of the Saharan Dust are that it can cause reduced shower activity. According to a forecaster from the local Meteorological Services, on the night of Sunday, June 21, a tropical wave was affecting the island but persons may not have noticed because the shower activity associated with it was stifled because of the presence of the dust haze and winds.

Additionally, there are known benefits to the dust, such as outlined in an article published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on June 19, which states that “Normally, hundreds of millions of tons of dust are picked up from the deserts of Africa and blown across the Atlantic Ocean each year. That dust helps build beaches in the Caribbean and fertilizes soils in the Amazon.”

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