Massive Saharan dust cloud shrouds the Caribbean

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View of Morro Castle as a vast cloud of Sahara dust blankets the city of Havana on June 24, 2020Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Morro castle in Havana, Cuba was shrouded in haze from the dust cloud

A huge cloud of Saharan dust has darkened the skies over parts of the Caribbean.

The dust has been moving from Africa over the Atlantic Ocean.

On Sunday it reached Puerto Rico and has since covered Cuba and parts of Mexico.

The Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique are suffering their worst haze for at least a decade, and health officials in Cuba are warning it could increase respiratory problems.

The dust cloud is also affecting parts of southern Florida, including the city of Miami.

Media caption,

Saharan dust moves towards US

'Unusually large area of dust'

Analysis by BBC Weather presenter Simon King

Dust and sandstorms are not uncommon in the desert regions of the world. Winds can whip the dust - up to 2,000 million tonnes every year - high up into our atmosphere and it gets transported many miles away from the source.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The extent of the dust cloud is visible on this satellite image

The dust and sand provide a source of nutrients for ocean ecosystems but can also affect the weather and the health of humans with respiratory problems.

Dust coming off the Sahara into the Atlantic is a common occurrence and is known as the Dry Air Saharan Layer. Later in the hurricane season it can inhibit the growth of tropical storms developing around Cape Verde and the mid-Atlantic.

Over the last week however we've had an unusually large area of dust travelling right across the Atlantic affecting Central and North America. This is going to hang around over the weekend. Meanwhile another large area of dust has been seen on satellite images moving out of the Sahara and travelling across the Atlantic.

Poor visibility and air quality is forecast to continue in parts of the Caribbean and Central America over the coming week.

On Sunday, it was the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, which saw its hillside neighbourhoods shrouded in haze.

Image source, EPA

Tourists in San Juan in Puerto Rico got more sand than they had bargained for on Monday.

Image source, AFP

Bridgetown in Barbados also appeared blanketed in the yellow dust on Monday.

Image source, Reuters

In Cuba, people stopped to take photographs of the yellow-coloured sky on Wednesday.

Image source, Reuters

Cuban health officials warned residents that those suffering from asthma and other respiratory problems could see their conditions worsen.

Cuban meteorologist José Rubiera said that while Saharan dust clouds were not unusual, the density of the current one was "well above normal levels".

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