02 February 2024

Saharan Dust: What it is and how it impacts the UK

The Sahara Desert is the largest non-polar desert in the world. Located in northern Africa, it is roughly the same size as continental United States of America. In strong updrafts of wind, sand and dust are launched into the atmosphere, creating large dust clouds. The image below shows the large dust cloud that was situated just off the West coast of northern Africa, at the end of January 2024.

Some of this dust is then transported across Europe and into the UK via southerly winds. The sand and dust will mix with any rain over the UK and as it falls on ground surfaces, it will leave behind a red, dusty residue.

Saharan Dust also causes more enhanced sunsets and sunrises. The added dust particles will bring the additional scattering of light, intensifying the red, yellow and pink shades you see. It can also cause a unique orange haze during the day, depending on the amount of dust and sunlight available.

It is a relatively common occurrence in the UK and one that generally coincides with warmer temperatures so gritting and Saharan Dust don’t often go together!

Saharan Dust

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