It’s starting to feel as though 2020 is just a bad joke at this point. Or it’s as if every apocalyptic movie ever made has come to life, or we’re living through some of the zanier episodes of Doomsday Preppers.
Early in the year there was a very real fear that World War III was on the horizon after Iran launched 15 ballistic missiles in the direction of US soldiers sleeping in Iraq. Then, just weeks later, the world was grinding to a halt in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 which, to this day still isn’t contained in the United States.
Throw in some murder hornets, a racial revolution, and a bunch of kooky extremists trying to start a Civil War in America, and we have all the fixings for a doomsday buffet.
Now, before we even reach the halfway mark in 2020, we have scenes like these from The Caribbean:
Did you know it travels in a manner similar to hurricanes? pic.twitter.com/tjKbpSnWcQ
— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) June 24, 2020
The following image depicts what has happened over by Trinidad & Tobago courtesy of surge of Saharan dust from the Sahara Desert that has recently entered the Caribbean. Jamaicans with sinusitis and asthmatic conditions should be on the alert when it arrives in Jamaica on Monday. pic.twitter.com/9jXxtCVKRX
— Weather Jamaica (@weatherjamaica) June 21, 2020
— Disclose.tv 🚨 (@disclosetv) June 22, 2020
The massive dust plume is now heading north, set to infiltrate the United States from the Gulf Coast.
“This is the most significant event in the past 50 years. Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands,” Pablo Méndez Lázaro, from the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Public Health, told the Associated Press.
The latest NASA model projecting the path of the dust has it heading into the deep South from the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday. The next round will hit Texas on Thursday through Saturday, and then hook back eastward over the Southeast and Tennessee Valley area.
And while the plume will make for some stunning sunsets, there are hazard involved as well.
NASA satellites measure the intensity of dust clouds with a metric called Aerosol Optical Thickness (AOT). This metric indicates the degree to which aerosols prevent the transmission of light through the atmosphere: 0.01 indicates crystal clear skies, 0.4 corresponds with very hazy conditions, and a 4 means the pollution is so dense the sun can not be seen in the middle of the day.
On Tuesday, AOTs measured around 1.5 — very dense — in the thickest of the dust mass near the islands of Hispaniola and Jamaica, restricting visibilities to less than a mile in parts of the Caribbean and making for very unhealthy air quality as measured by the World Air Quality Index Project.
Research shows airborne dust can have adverse effects on health, with one of the most important being pulmonary disease. Inhalation of dust particles into the airways can initiate an inflammatory immune response. Dust is most unhealthy for people with pre-existing conditions like COPD, asthma and allergies, but dust as thick as the plume heading towards the U.S. may even be harmful to otherwise healthy people, if exposure lasts too long.
Those living in the American south and southeast will start seeing the effects of this wild meteorological event over the weekend.
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