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Dust In the Air

If you live in the southern United States or the Caribbean, you have most likely seen dust coating your cars during the summer. This dust originates in African deserts and is carried over the Atlantic Ocean. Recent studies done near the arctic introduce results similar to these patterns of traveling dust, possibly due to the decrease in glacial mass (or increase in “glacial outwash deposits”), according to Joseph Prospero from the University of Miami. Prospero’s previous body of work has led him to establish an initial hypothesis of high correlation between dust particles in Barbados (West Indies) to rainfall levels in the Sahel and Soudan regions of Africa, though at this point in his research he has not determined a clear association between the two factors due to unpredictability in yearly dust levels in Africa.

These studies on migrating dust particles are especially relevant to us living in the United States due to health concerns. The dust from African deserts contains over 50% dust particles with masses less than 2.5 microns, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems “respirable.” Dust particles in the Caribbean region often match or extend beyond these “respirable” levels.


(Photo Credit: iStockphoto/Darren Baker)

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