2021’s first notable surge of Saharan Dust is mere days away, beginning on Monday evening with a brief, mild surge. However, by the mid to end of the upcoming week, concentrations will be at mild to moderate levels, lingering into the weekend.
For now, across the country, air quality is at good levels with visibility at 10 kilometers as of 6:00 PM Saturday 16th 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
Until Monday afternoon, no surges of Saharan Dust will be affecting T&T. Between Monday evening and Tuesday evening, a brief surge of Saharan Dust will move across T&T, possibly reducing air quality to moderate levels.
Between Tuesday and Wednesday evening, air quality will briefly improve before a more dense surge of dust arrives. Concentrations will persist through the weekend, with gradual improvement between January 24th through January 25th, but another surge will arrive late January 26th into the 27th.
Based on the latest dust modeling, air quality across Trinidad and Tobago is forecast to remain at good levels until Monday evening. After Monday, through much of the upcoming week, air quality will vary between good to moderate levels, possibly reaching levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups in areas where high traffic or fires occur.
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 late Monday.
From late Monday onwards, for the general population, with mild to moderate Saharan dust concentrations forecast, little to no impacts are forecast beyond reduced visibility. For sensitive groups, such as children, the elderly, and persons who suffer from respiratory ailments and allergies, you may need to avoid prolonged exertion outdoors.
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.