Hazy days for the holiday weekend due to Saharan dust

Live image captured on July 1st depicting a hazy skyline over Lakeway, due to African dust.

It’s a phenomenon that happens nearly every summer: a pipeline of mineral dust from Africa is brought by the wind to Central Texas. It usually occurs during a quieter time in the Atlantic hurricane basin, and it can make our sunsets look like a deeper shade of orange or red than normal. It can also make the skyline look hazy during the day.

Unfortunately, this dust can settle near the ground and have adverse effects on people. Dry eyes and itchy throats are common. The dust can have more negative impacts on people with respiratory issues, too, like asthma, making it uncomfortable to be outdoors for extended periods of time.

After Sunday, we’ll likely see some improvements in our air quality, though the TCEQ still points out dust issues through Tuesday. Here’s the air quality forecast from the TCEQ for the weekend:

Image courtesy of TCEQ.

DISCUSSION:

Sunday 07/02/2017 Outlook
Winds may be light enough and incoming background levels high enough for ozone to reach the “Moderate” range in parts of the El Paso area, with highest concentrations in the afternoon and early evening.

African dust is expected to spread across most of the state, possibly raising the daily PM2.5 AQI to “Moderate” or possibly higher in the Austin and Houston areas and “Moderate” in remaining spots along and east of a line from Sanderson to Kermit to Childress, with lighter amounts of arriving dust still in the “Good” range across the Panhandle, South Plains, and far West Texas, including Amarillo, El Paso, and Lubbock, and lighter amounts of departing dust dropping into the “Good” range in Southwest Texas along the Rio Grande, including the Laredo area.

Otherwise in the Panhandle and Southwest Texas, moderate winds and/or lower incoming background levels should help to keep air quality in the “Good” range.

Monday 07/03/2017 Outlook
Winds may be light enough and/or incoming background levels high enough for ozone to reach “Moderate” or possibly higher in parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and “Moderate” in the El Paso, Houston, and Waco-Killeen areas, with highest concentrations in the afternoon and early evening.

Lighter amounts of patchy African dust is expected to linger in spots across much of the state, with the daily PM2.5 AQI forecast to remain in the “Moderate” range in parts of the Austin, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Tyler-Longview, Victoria, and Waco-Killeen areas. Patchy lingering smoke from ongoing fires in the southwestern United States may continue over parts of West Texas and, perhaps with contributions from light amounts of lingering African dust, could possibly raise the daily PM2.5 AQI into the “Moderate” range in the Midland-Odessa area and the upper end of the “Good” range across remaining parts of the Panhandle.

Tuesday 07/04/2017 Extended Outlook
Winds may be light enough and/or incoming background levels high enough for ozone to reach “Moderate” or possibly higher in parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth and El Paso areas and “Moderate” in the Houston and Waco-Killeen areas, with highest concentrations in the afternoon and early evening.

Light amounts of dissipating patchy African dust may linger across parts of the state and could keep the daily PM2.5 AQI at the lower end of the “Moderate” range in parts of the Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio areas. Patchy lingering smoke from ongoing fires in the southwestern United States may persist over parts of West Texas and the Panhandle, though the intensity is not expected to be enough to raise the daily PM2.5 AQI beyond the “Good” range overall. Additionally, locally increased particulate matter associated with intermittent heavy smoke in the vicinity and immediately downwind of Independence Day fireworks and other celebratory activities could be high enough to result in isolated PM2.5 AQIs netting out in the “Moderate” range overall for the day, particularly in urban areas.

Otherwise, moderate winds and/or lower incoming background levels should help to keep air quality in the “Good” range.

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