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Saharan dust is making its way to Austin this week. That's a good thing and a bad thing.

Boats and fishing during a sunset, colored orange due in part to a Saharan dust cloud, seen from Canyon Dam overlooking Canyon Lake in the Texas Hill Country.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Saharan dust can make for some pretty sunsets.

Saharan dust is making its way over to Central Texas this week. The dust can slightly lower air quality, but it also has its perks.

The dust, which is common in Texas this time of year, is blown over from the Sahara Desert in North Africa. The clouds are associated with strong trans-Atlantic winds, and they dry and warm the air. That can reduce the risk of tropical storms for the rest of the year, according to the National Weather Service.

"The one thing that we most relate to the Saharan dust is tropical activity,” Orlando Bermudez, a meteorologist with the NWS, said. “The more we have, the less activity of tropical cyclones we have for that particular year."

The dust particles also fertilize the ocean as they fall to earth, and they make the sky look pretty.

“The way they’re shaped, they tend to scatter the sunlight more in the morning and in the afternoon,” Jason Dunion, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, told KUT in 2018. "It’s really that sunrise/sunset time of day that you really can appreciate it overhead.”

The particles lower air quality, however, increasing symptoms for people with asthma. During this time, people at risk should stay indoors when possible and wear a mask if they feel the dust is affecting their breathing.

Bermudez said the Saharan dust will likely die down in early August.

Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at hpanjwani@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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