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Why This Matters: A dust cloud this long is rare but it can be quite serious for people with lung conditions. Many Caribbean islands have experienced dangerous air quality and forecasters are giving the same warnings now in Florida and other southern states. The cloud is definitely related to climate-induced dry and hot conditions, but scientists do not agree on whether there will be more or fewer of these in the future. They DO agree that these dust clouds suppress hurricanes due to their dry air, which is good news. But that is only expected to last through July, and after that, the likelihood of hurricanes will increase again.
Health Effects of the Godzilla Plume
It seems as if another biblical plague is hitting us. Scientists studying this plume believe it is the most significant one in the last fifty years — referring to it as Godzilla and a “whopper.” Health experts also worry about the dust’s impacts on people battling respiratory symptoms tied to COVID-19. The dust concentrations in the Caribbean were so high that it could impact even healthy people. NASA is apparently working to develop an alert system for the arrival of Saharan dust.
How Big Is It?
The Washington Post Capitol Weather Gang interviewed experts both in and outside of the government. The dust storm originated with strong winds blowing out from thunderstorms over the Sahara that initially kicked up dust to an altitude of around 20,000 feet above the desert before it blew westward, out to sea on June 14, according to Jason Dunion, a hurricane researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This type of dust storm happens every year off the coast of Africa and is known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), but this is a record-breaker. The first really thick dust clouds reached the US territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Monday, plunging visibility levels and making it hard for many to breathe. Worse yet, there is another wave of dust (yes it has waves too) drifting toward the U.S. across the Atlantic this weekend. Professor Thomas Gill, of the University of Texas at El Paso, told The Post “this is among the most impressive such events observed and is especially noteworthy for its likely impacts on North America. ‘This one is, by all of the data and reports I’m seeing, one of the biggest and possibly the biggest and most expansive ever,’ Gill said.”
Above the North Pole, a polar vortex — a swirling flurry of cold air — could cause weeks of frigid weather in the Eastern United States, Northern Europe, and East Asia according to forecasters. Snow blanketed Spain over the weekend, dumping nearly two feet of snow on Madrid — the most snow in the last 50 years there. Madrid
Why this Matters: While many associate global warming with hotter weather, climate change can also cause harsher, more snowy winters.
This year we shattered the record for the number of named storms over the course of the six months of hurricane season with 30 — we exceeded the previous record by four. There were so many storms that we ran out of names and went deep into the Greek alphabet, which is what happens when we use up all the typical ones.
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