DALLAS – Heat indexes north of 100 degrees have made North Texas feel somewhat like a desert in the early part of summer. In recent days, though, the area has actually had more in common with the hot and dry biome than sweltering heat.
Strong winds blowing across the Atlantic have carried dust from the Saharan desert – yes, the world’s third largest desert located in North Africa – all the way to Texas.
Satellite imagery shows clouds of dust swirling east to west for most of the more than 5,000-mile journey and taking a northward turn near the Gulf of Mexico.
The dust, known in the meteorological community as the Saharan Air Layer, forms in the late spring or early summer and drifts into the western hemisphere annually, according to a Weather.com article from 2015. The dust clouds often reach the Caribbean and Florida, but had their sights set as far north as Chicago this time around.
The Saharan dust creates hazy skies and may cause some irritation for North Texans with respiratory issues, but doesn’t present any serious threat.
DFW had a stagnant air mass in place over the weekend and into Monday morning, allowing the dust cloud to linger. A cold front or a decent rain would accelerate the disappearance of the desert dust.