African dust makes for hazy Austin skyline

Aerosol optical depth satellite imagery. (Courtesy: NASA Worldview)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — From a distance, Austin’s skyline appeared hazy Wednesday. It could get worse by the end of the week due to Saharan dust from Africa.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) meteorologists track the dust on NASA satellite imagery. It shows up in red as a large plume off the African coast. As it is stirred up high into the atmosphere, prevailing winds carry it across the Atlantic Ocean. Another plume already in the Caribbean should arrive in Texas by the end of the week and linger through the weekend.

The dust means the air quality goes from “good” to “moderate” but does not exceed federal standards. The TCEQ recommends those with respiratory issues limit their outdoor activities.

Dr. Thomas Leath with Allergy and Asthma Associates noticed the dust while doing the daily pollen count. He said it showed up in addition to mold under the microscope as irregular crystals.

“The easiest thing to compare it to would be small grains of sand,” said Dr. Thomas Leath.

Dr. Leath recommends people use nasal rinses as well as their regular allergy medications and asthma inhalers to combat symptoms brought on by the dust.

“Some studies have shown it could also have mold or fungi from the African soil that gets blown over as well so for those that are allergic to those mold particles, it could up the ante,” said Leath. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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