A thin veil of dust from the Sahara Desert is riding the trade winds west, setting the stage for a milky sky and vibrant sunsets across the U.S. Gulf Coast. At the same time, the bone dry air containing this dust is thwarting any attempt for tropical storms to develop and threaten land.
Since the weekend, elevated dust concentrations have been observed ground level in southern Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The quantities have been rather small; springtime pollen outbreaks produce vastly more airborne material. But the transport of dust this far west across the entire Atlantic is remarkable, and the Gulf can expect extra colorful sunsets to boot.
“Typically every summer you’re going to get Sahara dust that gets carried over at least part of the way,” said Eric Bunker, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee, Fla. The dust is able to reach the United States a couple times each season.
They’re sweating in Europe
But in Europe, forecasters were warning of extreme heat this week.
Authorities have urged children and older people to stay indoors and issued severe warnings against dehydration and heatstroke as an unprecedented weeklong heat wave begins its advance across continental Europe.
Meteorologists said temperatures would reach or even exceed 100 F from Spain to Switzerland as hot air is sucked up from the Sahara by the combination of a storm stalling over the Atlantic and high pressure over central Europe.
In Paris on Monday, charity organizations patrolled the streets to provide homeless people with water, while local authorities organized air-conditioned public places where people could seek shelter.
French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, deciding it was too hot to study, ordered national exams taken by students heading to high school postponed from Thursday and Friday to next week.
International soccer federation FIFA could face implementing heat precautions at the Women’s World Cup, which France is hosting. The precautions include holding cooling breaks during matches and postponing games if the heat is too intense.
Women’s World Cup matches are scheduled every day this week, except Wednesday and Sunday. Luckily, most were set to be played at night.
France introduced a heat watch warning system after a long, deadly heat wave in August 2003. The highest temperatures in more than half a century eventually were estimated to have caused 15,000 heat-related deaths, many of them older people in city apartments and retirement homes without air conditioning.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that vigilance was the watchword for the week.
“As you know, at times like these, sick people, pregnant women, infants and elderly people are the most vulnerable. So we must be vigilant with them and have prevention measures in place in order to intervene as quickly as possible,” Macron said.
Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said “monthly heat records all over the globe occur five times as often today as they would in a stable climate.”
“This increase in heat extremes is just as predicted by climate science as a consequence of global warming caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from burning coal, oil and gas,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.