While West Is Shrouded in Smoke, Saharan Dust Turns South Florida Skies Hazy

Sean Breslin
Published: August 10, 2018

Virtually every state in the Lower 48 has been impacted by the Western wildfire smoke, but there's a different reason for the hazy skies in South Florida.

Saharan dust has swept into the skies of Miami and the rest of South Florida, turning skies dusty and dry but making for terrific sunrises and sunsets. The dust has drifted across the Atlantic Ocean in recent weeks, an occurrence that isn't incredibly rare but can stifle the formation of tropical systems.

Saharan dust tracks westward across the Atlantic and can reach the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico several times every year, said weather.com meteorologist Linda Lam.

The dust particles and stable air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) reduce thunderstorm development, which is a key to tropical cyclone development, Lam said. 

This dry, stable air creates sinking air around the system. This impedes formation of thunderstorms or pushes them farther away.

(MORE: The Longest-Lasting Hurricanes on Record)

The Miami office of the National Weather Service noted in a tweet Thursday that the coverage of showers and storms in South Florida has been below average since the dust swept in.

The dust is expected to continue drifting west toward Texas this weekend.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.