Saharan Dust Forecast To Remain Across T&T Into Next Week

Even with the passages of multiple tropical waves forecast over the next seven to ten days, Saharan Dust is forecast to linger across the region.

What you need to know

Saharan Dust Surges: Currently, a significant, high-concentration surge of dust is moving across the region, with peak concentrations ending late Thursday. Reinforcing moderate to high concentration surges are forecast to arrive on Saturday, June 11th, 2022, and Wednesday, June 15th, 2022, following tropical waves.
Impacts: Air quality levels across Trinidad and Tobago will vary between moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups through the forecast period, with brief instances of good air quality levels due to periodic rainfall through the weekend.
What Should You Do: A major Saharan Dust outbreak is underway, with a gradual improvement forecast over the next seven to ten days. Sensitive groups should continue taking the necessary precautions, while the general population would be able to continue activities with minimal Saharan Dust safety measures.

Current AQI Levels Across T&T

Air quality indices across Trinidad and Tobago, as recorded by the Environmental Management Agency, over the last 24 hours.
Air quality indices across Trinidad and Tobago, as recorded by the Environmental Management Agency, over the last 24 hours.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) air quality monitoring stations at San Fernando, Port of Spain, and Signal Hill have all recorded moderate air quality levels over the last 24 hours, with levels dipping to unhealthy for sensitive groups at Signal Hill in more recent hours.

These measurements are 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.

Over the last 24 hours, visibility remained between six to 10 kilometers at the Piarco International Airport and A.N.R. Robinson International Airport at Crown Point, Tobago.

Saharan Dust Forecast

02Z Tuesday, June 7th 2022, NASA GEOS-5 Dust Extinction Model Monitoring Tropical Atlantic Sulphates Aerosol Optical Total showing Saharan Dust
02Z Tuesday, June 7th, 2022, NASA GEOS-5 Dust Extinction Model Monitoring Tropical Atlantic Sulphates Aerosol Optical Total showing Saharan Dust

Ongoing Surge: Through Friday, June 10th, 2022

A major surge of Saharan Dust has been moving across the Lesser Antilles since late Monday, June 6th, 2022. Peak concentrations are ongoing through Thursday, June 9th, 2022, with high concentrations lingering into the weekend.

Air quality levels will vary between moderate and unhealthy for sensitive groups, with the visibility dropping as low as six kilometers outside of shower or thunderstorm activity.

Surge #2: Saturday, June 11th, 2022

Following Tropical Wave 07 on Friday, another surge of dust is forecast to move across the region, with moderate to high concentrations. Peak concentrations are forecast between Saturday and Sunday, June 11th and 12th, respectively, with higher dust levels north of T&T.

Air quality levels will vary between good and moderate, with the visibility dropping as low as seven to eight kilometers outside of shower or thunderstorm activity.

Surge #3: Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

Forecast models indicate a tropical wave moving through the area on Tuesday, June 14th, 2022, which is forecast to improve air quality and reduce dust levels briefly. However, promptly following the wave axis will be a moderate to high-concentration dust surge, with higher concentrations well north of T&T.

Air quality levels will vary between good and moderate, with the visibility dropping as low as seven to eight kilometers outside of shower or thunderstorm activity. Dust levels will remain at moderate levels through the end of the upcoming week.

What does this mean for you?

The air quality will be degraded through the forecast period. During high traffic periods, particularly between 6:00 AM and 9:00 AM, and again from 3:00 PM through 6:30 PM, air quality may be further reduced in localized areas.

Sensitive groups, such as children, the elderly, and persons who suffer from respiratory ailments and allergies should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and keep medication nearby.

According to the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service, “the 2022 Saharan Dust Haze Season is likely to peak from June to August with the number of Saharan dust haze days expected to increase significantly. The duration of the plumes of Saharan dust haze visiting both islands is also likely to be more prolonged than earlier in the year, with increased odds for higher dust haze concentration during plumes visitation.”

We’re in a period where the Intertropical Convergence Zone and Tropical Waves may shield Trinidad and Tobago from the Saharan Dust events. While tropical waves play a notable role in moving dust across the Atlantic and the Eastern Caribbean, these periodic tropical waves also improve air quality.

The concentration of the dust that follows the wave depends on the strength of the wave as it moves off the West African Coast. This is because of stronger thunderstorms across Central Africa. As strong winds move downward and outward from these thunderstorms, the wind kicks up dust as it moves across parts of the Saharan Desert and transports it into the upper atmosphere. This “plume” of dust follows the axis of the wave as it progresses westward into the Atlantic.

Dust that makes it into the upper levels of the atmosphere can then get transported across the Atlantic Ocean. The plumes of dust eventually affect the Eastern Caribbean.

Larger, more concentrated plumes of Saharan dust begin to occur in April and continue through November.

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