A new round of Saharan dust tracking into Central Texas

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas is currently hitting the peak time of the year for plumes of dust from the Saharan desert to make skies hazy. A new round of African dust is tracking in from the Gulf Coast this weekend. Along with triple-digit temperatures, people can expect a hot and hazy weekend.

The National Weather Service released detailed information Wednesday on the recent Saharan dust outbreaks. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been studying these plumes since the 1960s, though Hurricane Hunter aircraft have only recently explored them in more detail.

NOAA has learned:

  • The Saharan dust layer has to travel 5,000 miles from the African desert to land on the shores of Texas’ coast.
  • Usually, traveling all that distance begins to break down the plume. The last round of dust was the size of the U.S. when it took off from Africa!
  • The dust travels about 1-3 miles from Earth’s surface. This layer of exceptionally dry air can keep clouds from forming, and may actually stifle tropical activity in the Atlantic.

People who have lung sensitivities, including asthma, should limit outdoor exposure through Monday.

The good news is that these rounds of dust are expected to decrease rapidly by mid-August. Mid-July to early August is the peak of activity each year.

Forecast based on EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI)

AQI Scale
Forecast Region
(Click name for AIRNOW version)
Amarillo Ozone Ozone Ozone Good Good
Austin PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 Good
Beaumont-Port Arthur PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 Ozone/PM2.5
Brownsville-McAllen PM2.5 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 PM2.5
Corpus Christi PM2.5 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 PM2.5
Dallas-Fort Worth Ozone* Ozone/PM2.5/PM10 Ozone Ozone/PM2.5 Ozone
El Paso Ozone* Ozone Ozone Ozone Ozone
Houston Ozone* Ozone/PM2.5 Ozone Ozone Ozone/PM2.5
Laredo PM2.5 PM2.5 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 PM2.5
Lubbock Ozone/PM2.5 Good Ozone Good Good
Midland-Odessa Ozone/PM2.5 Ozone Ozone Ozone Ozone
San Antonio PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 Good
Tyler-Longview PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 PM2.5 PM2.5 Ozone
Victoria PM2.5 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 Good
Waco-Killeen PM2.5/PM10 PM2.5 PM2.5 PM2.5 Good
An asterisk (*) indicates that an Ozone Action Day is or will be in effect for the indicated region.

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