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A Massive Cloud of dust is headed straight for the Central Florida area, but it’s not all bad news, even if you’re headed to Disney World

A massive cloud of dust is on the move, and Central Florida lies right in its path, and it’s not your average, run-of-the-mill dust storm.

saharan air layer

Credit: NOAA

It’s called the Saharan Air Layer, or SAL. It’s a huge mass of dry and dusty air that originates over the Sahara Desert in Africa in the late spring and early summer months. The dusty layer of air then travels west off the coast of Africa into the northern Atlantic Ocean.

According to meteorologists at FOX 35 Orlando, the current Atlantic high pressure and its associated clockwise flow of air could serve to bring the massive cloud of Saharan dust to Central Florida this weekend.

Meteorologists are tracking the SAL, and the most current forecasting models show the veil of dust arriving in the Southern Gulf as early as this weekend. The dust is then forecast to move across much of Florida.

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While dust is usually something we try to eliminate, the dusty Saharan Air Layer can actually be helpful. If it reaches Florida, it can actually help to limit some of the usual afternoon thunderstorms common in the Sunshine State. And speaking of sunshine, the SAL can even help to cause sunrises and sunsets to be more vibrant as dust works to scatter light in the upper atmosphere.

Saharan Dust to bring vibrant sunrises, sunsets to Gulf Coast next week |  WKRG

Credit: WKRG

The Saharan Air Layer has also been known to keep tropical cyclones in the Atlantic from gaining strength. Its ability to limit tropical development can be especially helpful in places like Florida where hurricane activity can be a threat from June to November each year.

According to the NOAA, Saharan Air Layer activity usually intensifies in mid-June. It then peaks from late June to mid-August. During this time, new outbreaks of the massive dust storm occur every 3 to 5 days.

It’s during these peaks that individual Saharan Air Layer outbreaks reach further to the west, sometimes as far west as Florida, Central America, and Texas. The outbreaks can cover large areas–sometimes areas as expansive as the enter lower 48 states.

sunset saharan air layer

Credit: WFLA

Dusty air may linger over much of Florida into early next week, so if you’re visiting the Walt Disney World Resort over the next several days and you notice hazy skies and wind, you may be experiencing the effects of the Saharan dust layer. But if the hazy skies get you down while you’re visiting the parks at Disney World, stick around a while because you might just be rewarded by some of the most vibrant sunsets you’ve ever seen!

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!