Massive Saharan dust cloud arrives in North Texas Friday

A vast cloud of Saharan dust is starting to move through the United States with size and concentration that experts say hasn’t been seen in half a century.

The dust cloud arrived in Florida Thursday morning, reducing moisture in the air and covering the sky in a haze.

FOX 4 Meteorologist Evan Andrews said it will be over North Texas on Friday and Saturday, although it will be much less of a factor causing just a light haze and some colorful skies.

The forecast for North Texas on Friday calls for clouds and some showers that could help to clean out some of the dust. Then on Saturday with more sun in the forecast, North Texans could see a beautiful reddish-orange sunrise and sunset, Evan said.

When the dust cloud reached the Caribbean, the air quality across most of the region fell to record “hazardous” levels and experts who nicknamed the event the “Godzilla dust cloud” warned people to stay indoors and use air filters if they have one.

“This is the most significant event in the past 50 years,” said Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico. “Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the plume was first captured on June 7, blowing west off the African continent over the Atlantic.

According to NOAA, very dry and dusty air known as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) forms over the Sahara Desert during the late spring, summer, and early fall, which then moves over the tropical Atlantic.

The plume can be seen as a deep orange and light pink blob on satellite imagery. 

The dust does typically hamper the formation of tropical cyclones and hurricane strengthening.