A massive cloud of dust from the Sahara will hover over the southeastern United States this weekend, forecasters say, covering the region in a brown haze and raising health concerns in countries where the coronavirus crisis is worsening.
The 5,600 km cloud, known as the "Godzilla Dust Cloud", traveled 8,047 km from North Africa before reaching the region that stretched from Florida west to Texas and north to North Carolina via Arkansas, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
"It is a really dry layer of air that contains these very fine dust particles.
It happens every summer, "said NWS meteorologist Patrick Blood.
"Some of these feathers contain more particles and we are currently expecting a very large cloud of dust on the Gulf Coast." This year, dust is the most dense in half a century, several meteorologists told Reuters the week before when it went across the Caribbean.
The Sahara dust cloud will hang over the region by mid-next week, and will degrade air quality in Texas, Florida and other countries where the number of COVID-19 cases has risen recently.
"There is evidence of possible interactions between air pollution and the risk of COVID, so we are concerned at this stage," said Gregory Wellenius, professor of environmental health at the School of Public Health at Boston University. Air pollution can be particularly harmful to people who are at risk or at risk for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, Wellenius added.
Heart and lung problems increase the risk of severe COVID-19. The cloud creates a hazy sky and poorer visibility.
In the past, dust clouds from Africa have cast a thin layer of dust on vehicles in Houston, where air quality is always a concern, Blood said.
The dry air mass that carries the dust can suppress the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes, and improve and illuminate sunrises and sunsets, meteorologists said.