Sahara Dust Storms and the impact on the Caribbean

Sahara Dust Storms and the impact on the Caribbean

 

Have you ever noticed upon your travels to the Caribbean that it looks a bit “hazy” on certain days? Most people think it’s just the humidity. However, the haze is actually from dust that has come from the Sahara desert.

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The haze in Coral Bay Valley, St. John

Tons of this dust moves westward on a yearly basis into the Atlantic and Caribbean in response to summer storms and the warmer air.

The dust can travel as high as 15,000 feet above the desert and then it is pushed towards the Atlantic. With the westward winds.

They can actually keep track of these “storms” via satellite. It’s pretty neat seeing the images.

It’s impact on the Caribbean and Atlantic isn’t only haze, but the dust contains pathogens which are invading into the water and killing off coral reefs.

Coral reefs are the home of millions of aquatic life. Not sure if you’ve ever snorkeled and have seen that the coral reefs may look somewhat “bleached.” You can actually see this at the underwater snorkel trail at Trunk Bay.

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Picture of Trunk Cay where the underwater snorkel trail resides

The bleaching is from environmental stress. Due to the pathogens in the Saharan dust and other environmental factors like pollution.

There are pluses and minuses to the dust. In terms of the Amazon, it provides essential nutrients to the tree canopy in the rainforest.

This dust hits the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean pretty badly. To where they are actually sweeping tons of this sediment off of their boats or using vacuums to suck it up on certain days.

So when it’s a pretty hazy day in the Caribbean you know it’s a cause of the African desert coming in for a visit. It will still be beautiful my friends and does not linger very long.

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A picture of more haze