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Saharan dust plume maps let you track the cloudy phenomenon in real time

A massive cloud of Saharan dust is heading our way. Here’s how to track the great 2020 plume as it crosses the Atlantic Ocean.

Saharan dust plume maps let you track the cloudy phenomenon in real time
[Image: courtesy of CIRA]
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Because we don’t have enough going on in the world right now, a gargantuan plume of dust is currently making its way from the Sahara Desert to the United States. Meteorologists say the phenomenon is not particularly unusual, according to CNN, although it can certainly feel like another sign of the apocalypse in the year of locusts, coronavirus, and murder hornets.

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According to the Weather Channel, the dust plume will make a 5,000-mile journey across the Atlantic before hitting the Gulf Coast and parts of the Deep South in the United States this week. The plume could bring a hazy quality to the sky in some areas, while the dust particles might affect people with allergies, but other than that, it’s not expected to be hugely disruptive. The most notable thing about the dust plume is what it looks like from space. Just ask NASA.

If you’re looking to track the Saharan dust plume in real time—or if you simply want to view it on a map to get a sense of its scale—plenty of recourses let you do that. I’ve rounded up a few below.

  • CIRA: This real-time tool from Colorado State University’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) is probably the best out there. It lets you zoom in, overlay various data points, and even change the playback speed. Find it here.
  • The Weather Channel: This report has a nice infographic that forecasts when the dust plume is expected to hit the South. Find it here.
  • CIMSS: The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies has an in-depth report on the phenomenon and its origins. Find it here.
  • NASA’s Earth Observatory: The graphics in NASA’s report give you a true sense of the plume’s size, shape, and density. Find it here.
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About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior staff news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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