The Saharan Air Layer, SAL (Dust plume) which has been affecting the island since yesterday (June 22), is expected to intensify over the next twenty-four hours.
Acting Head of the Weather Branch, Meteorologist Rohan Brown said the country is currently experiencing a reduction in visibility.
“In keeping with the forecast as of 10:00 a.m. today, (June 23) the horizontal visibility has reduced to 4 Kilometres in Kingston and 5 Kilometres in Montego Bay. On a normal day, the visibility is usually greater than 10 Kilometres with the average anywhere between 16 and 20 kilometres, so clearly we are seeing a reduction in visibility as a result of the increased dust particles in the atmosphere associated with the Saharan Air Layer.”
Director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, Evan Thompson said the country is likely to see the worst case of the plume on Wednesday (June 24) and it will gradually dissipate as we get into the weekend.
“The conditions are expected to continue during the week but we will see more of an impact on Tuesday (June 23), then on Wednesday we are likely to see the worst case of this current plume that is moving across us and it will gradually dissipate as we get into the weekend”, said Mr Thompson.
Satellite images from the past few days show the thick dust moving off the west coast of Africa, crawling across the Atlantic and the eastern Caribbean on Sunday, and now moving into the Central Caribbean.
Mr Thompson further explained that “as the plume moves across the Caribbean and covers the Jamaica area we will see the increase in dust particles suspended in the atmosphere; there will be an increase in the hazy conditions across the country and we will also notice some depositing of dust particles on surfaces”.
It is expected that the country could experience another episode of the Dust plume over the next week or two. Right now the current phase is expected to last only a week but it could reoccur in the next couple of days.
In the meantime, Mr Thompson added that the plume will also impact storm activity.
“The plume will also cause trapping of the heat closest to the surface of the earth and so we could be seeing an increase in temperatures. This type of activity will also prohibit rainfall… There are likely to be more dry conditions and less of the storm activity during the period that we are affected by the Saharan Dust plume”, he explained.
The arrival of the Saharan dust layer is not unusual and happens every year between May and October. The plumes are usually short-lived, lasting no more than a week. However, what is different this year is the thickness of the plume that is observed on the satellite imagery and as a result, we are expecting greater concentrations in the dust levels.