2021 has had a relatively dust-free start to the year with only a very mild surge of dust moving across the region during the first week of January, with very mild concentrations. Another surge, with moderate concentrations of Saharan Dust, is forecast to arrive on the 21st of January, possibly reducing air quality.
Across the country, air quality is at good levels with visibility at 10 kilometers as of 2:00 PM Thursday 14th January 2021.
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) air quality monitoring stations are recording AQI values at levels that are good in Trinidad and Tobago based on PM2.5 (particulates the size of 2.5 micrometers and smaller, usually associated with increases in Saharan Dust, vehicle exhaust, and smoke) and PM10 particulates.
The Saharan Dust Forecast
Over the next 7 days, no major surges of Saharan Dust are forecast to move across T&T, with higher concentrations remaining across the Eastern Atlantic.
Based on the latest dust modeling, air quality across Trinidad and Tobago is forecast to remain at good levels. A mild surge will begin to affect T&T from January 19th, and concentrations will peak at moderate levels from January 21st through the 23rd, with mild concentrations lingering thereafter.
What does this mean for you?
For the general population, with little to no Saharan dust concentrations forecast, little to no impacts are forecast until next Thursday, when additional updates will be posted.
We’re in a period where a ridge of high pressure stays over the central Sahara Desert, and the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) remains over the Gulf of Guinea.
The Harmattan wind accelerates when it blows across the mountain massifs of Northwest Africa. If its speed is high enough and it blows over dust source regions, it lifts the dust and disperses it.
Dust that makes it into the upper levels of the atmosphere can then get transported across the Atlantic Ocean and affect the Eastern Caribbean.
These Saharan Dust outbreaks tend to be milder in the Eastern Caribbean than the dust outbreaks associated with West African thunderstorms driving dust into the upper atmosphere from April through November.