FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -- It might be 5,000 miles away, but dust from the Saharan Desert may be in the Kansas City area as early as Wednesday. The dust is easy to pick out on the NASA satellite image below. The image was taken two weeks ago by NASA's VIIRS satellite. VIIRS-20 scans the earth twice a day and uses multiple visible and infrared channels to obtain high resolution imagery of clouds, storms, and atmospheric aerosols.
Dust is one of them and you can easily see the dust in the satellite picture below. The light brown or beige shades that stretch from the west coast of Africa (right side the image) over the Cape Verde Islands (center of the image).
Storms or strong winds over the Sahara kick up huge dust storms. These dust storms become large plumes of sand. It happens every late spring, summer and fall. This mass of dusty air is called the Saharan Air Layer. The SAL can reach from 5,000 to 20,000 feet in the air.
Winds aloft push the dust westward. This week there is a very strong high pressure system over the tropic Atlantic that is help to deflect the dust across the Caribbean and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.
The gulf coast states and Florida will see the biggest impact from the Saharan dust, but some of this dust, somewhat diluted, will spread into the southern plains and the dust will eventually move northward into Kansas and Missouri. If you notice hazy skies Wednesday afternoon, you can blame the Saharan dust as it moves into Missouri and Kansas at high altitudes.
Below is a Saharan dust forecast for Thursday morning. The dust will be thickest over Louisiana and Mississippi (pink or purple shaded areas). Meantime, here in Kansas City, a moderate amount of dust, shown in yellow and oranges will be overhead. If skies are clear Thursday morning, we will have a very colorful sunrise!
The dust is forecast to stick around until Friday night before west winds aloft push it into the eastern United States. Here's what we can expect as a result of the dust.
This won't cause major air quality problems, but the air quality in Kansas City may, be "slightly" impacted, especially for anyone with breathing problems; i.e. asthma, COPD or allergies. If any air quality alerts are issued, we will let you know about them.
So if the skies seem especially hazy this week and the sunrises and sunsets are more colorful, you can blame it on dust from half a world away.