Saharan Dust Forecast To Fluctuate Through Weekend, Increase Next Week

The peak of our most recent Saharan dust plume is ongoing, with the highest concentrations between Barbados and Tobago presently. Air quality has been reduced to moderate levels across the Southern Windwards and French Antilles.

Air quality index across Trinidad and Tobago as of 12:00 AM Friday 29th May 2020 as Saharan Dust moved across T&T.
Air quality index across Trinidad and Tobago as of 12:00 AM Friday 29th May 2020 as Saharan Dust moves across T&T.

An increase in moisture across Trinidad will allow for air quality to fluctuate between good and moderate levels while remaining at moderate levels across Tobago through the next 5 days.

Note that in localized areas, further reduced air quality will occur in areas with smoke and fires.

Air quality index across the Eastern Caribbean as of 12:00 AM Friday 29th May 2020 as Saharan Dust moves across the region.
Air quality index across the Eastern Caribbean as of 12:00 AM Friday 29th May 2020 as Saharan Dust moves across the region.

Visibility across Trinidad and Tobago is at 10 kilometers.

Most islands across the Eastern Caribbean, north of Guadeloupe are experiencing good air quality based on U.S. standards as of 12:00 AM Friday 29th May 2020. Note that air quality across the Leewards are also forecast to be reduced Friday into Saturday.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) air quality monitoring stations are presently recording AQI values at good to moderate levels 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.

Air Quality Index at Environmental Management Agency‘s (EMA) Air Quality Monitoring Stations Across Trinidad. Note these AQI values are to Trinidad and Tobago air quality standards.

What we expect

Based on the latest dust modeling, air quality across Trinidad is forecast to fluctuate between good and moderate levels through Sunday, returning to moderate levels on Monday, reaching levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups through next week.

Trinidad’s air quality may improve Friday through Sunday due to an increase in low-level moisture and the elevated chances for brisk, isolated showers and the odd thunderstorm favoring Southern and Western areas.

Across Tobago, air quality is forecast to remain at moderate levels through the next 5 days, at times reaching unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Note that looking at the longer term, dense Saharan dust will remain across the region through next week, with some improvement forecast by the end of next week.

12Z 28th May 2020, CAMS Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Tropical Atlantic Dust Aerosol Optical Depth showing Saharan Dust. Credit: Weathermodels.com
5-Day Air Quality Index based on the Saharan Dust Forecast For Trinidad and Tobago.

What does this mean for you?

For the general population, 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. See below for more detail in the Saharan Dust forecast.

Good Air Quality

Good Air Quality

Level 1 AQI – 0 to 50

What does this mean for you?

At this level, air quality is considered satisfactory, and air pollution poses little or no risk to public health. It’s a great day to be active outside.

Who needs to be concerned?

No one.

What should you do?

Sensitive Groups: Sensitive groups, children and the elderly do not need special protection.

Air purification: It is recommended to run an air purifier in auto-mode, so it automatically reacts to changes in air quality.

Ventilation: It is good for ventilation.

Masks: No masks are needed.

Outdoor Activity: Very suitable for outdoor exercise and activities.  

Moderate Air Quality

Moderate Air Quality

Level 2 AQI – 51 to 100

What does this mean for you?

Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants, there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

Who needs to be concerned?

Unusually sensitive people: Consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion. Watch for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath. These are signs to take it easier.

Everyone else: It’s a good day to be active outside.

What should you do?

Sensitive Groups: Sensitive groups such as those with respiratory ailments, children and the elderly are advised to reduce outdoor physical exertion, and reduce the time of their stay outdoors, especially in areas with heavy traffic.

Air purification: At this level, the air is slightly polluted. It is recommended to turn on your air purifier, running at a low level, at a minimum.

Ventilation: Please close windows, as the air is slightly polluted.

Masks: Wearing a mask during outdoor activity is recommended, particularly in areas with heavy traffic.

Outdoor Activity: It is recommended to stay indoors and avoid outdoor exercise.

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups Air Quality

AQI – 101 to 150

What does this mean for you?

Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected. There is the increasing likelihood of respiratory symptoms in sensitive individuals, aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease & the elderly.

Who needs to be concerned?

Sensitive groups include people with heart or lung disease, older adults, children, and teenagers.

What should you do?

Sensitive groups: Reduce prolonged or heavy exertion. It’s OK to be active outside, but take more breaks and do less intense activities. Watch for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath.

People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and keep quick-relief medicine handy.

If you have heart disease: Symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, or unusual fatigue may indicate a serious problem. If you have any of these, contact your health care provider.

Air purification: At this level, the air is polluted. Turn on your air purifier, running at a high level.

Ventilation: Please close doors windows, as the air is polluted.

Masks: Wearing a mask during outdoor activity is recommended, particularly in areas with heavy traffic.

Outdoor Activity: It is recommended to stay indoors and avoid outdoor exercise.

We’re in a period where the ITCZ and tropical waves 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 frequent tropical waves also aid in improving 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.

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

Sensitive groups such as persons with respiratory ailments, children, the elderly and cardiopulmonary disease should take the necessary precautions on days where dust concentrations degrade air quality to moderate and beyond, as there is more Saharan Dust forecast.

Saharan Dust Precautions
Saharan Dust Precautions
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