Saharan Dust levels are forecast to continue fluctuating between mild and moderate levels across Trinidad and Tobago, with a new surge of dust arriving by Monday.
What you need to know
— Saharan Dust Surges: While no major or significant surges are forecast to affect T&T over the next several days, a moderate to high concentration surge of Saharan Dust is forecast to arrive across T&T on August 15th and August 21st, 2022.
— Impacts: Air quality levels across Trinidad and Tobago will vary between good and moderate through the forecast period. Periodic rainfall will also lead to air quality improvements in localized areas.
— What Should You Do: Sensitive groups will have brief periods during the upcoming forecast period where good air quality is anticipated. However, they should take the necessary precautions during dust surges. The general population will remain unaffected.
Current AQI Levels Across T&T
The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) air quality monitoring stations at San Fernando and Port of Spain have recorded moderate air quality levels over the last 24 hours. At Point Lisas and Signal Hill, no data was reported.
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 near or above nine to ten kilometers at the Piarco International Airport and A.N.R. Robinson International Airport at Crown Point, Tobago.
Saharan Dust Forecast
Ongoing Surge: Through Sunday, August 14th, 2022
Saharan Dust levels are mild to moderate across Trinidad and Tobago, with higher concentrations north of the country. Fluctuating but decreasing concentrations are forecast through Sunday, August 14th, 2022, due to the passages of multiple weak tropical waves interacting with the ITCZ.
Anticipated intervals of showers and isolated thunderstorms are forecast to bring brief air quality improvement. Still, air quality levels will vary from good to moderate, with the visibility generally near or above nine to ten kilometers outside of shower or thunderstorm activity.
Surge #2: Monday, August 15th, 2022
Following the passage of Tropical Wave 29 (currently Invest 97L in the east Atlantic), a mild to high concentration surge of dust is set to arrive on Monday, August 15th, 2022. Peak concentrations are forecast overnight into Tuesday.
Air quality levels will vary from good to moderate across T&T, with visibility generally remaining near or above nine to ten kilometers outside of shower or thunderstorm activity. Improvement is forecast by Thursday, August 18th, 2022.
Surge #3: Sunday, August 21st, 2022
Another moderate to high concentration surge of dust is set to arrive by Sunday, August 21st, 2022. Higher concentrations of dust are forecast to remain north of Trinidad and Tobago.
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.
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 its strength 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 in April and continue through November.