2020 – A Year for the History Books
June 30, 2020

2020 – A Year for the History Books

The year 2020 is one for the history books.

If COVID-19 with its attendant health and economic consequences were not enough, over the last few weeks, gigantic plumes of dust from across the Atlantic have come our way, causing our horizons to disappear, irritating our eyes, nostrils and throats and placing a thin layer of red dust everywhere.

Physicians and scientists say the dust could be problematic for those with certain health conditions like allergies, asthma and other lung conditions and they recommend limiting outdoor activities and wearing masks. Sounds familiar?
Almost in perfect timing with the start of the hurricane season, the thick reddish-brown mass moved off the west coast of Africa, crawled across the Atlantic and is now slowly moving across the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast states of the United States.

But the effects of the Saharan dust are not all negative. Meteorologists say because it is a dry layer of air, it helps to suppress the development of tropical weather systems such as tropical waves, storms and hurricanes. This is a short-term benefit, but we cannot help but wonder, at what cost?

Scientists say the dust should be considered air pollution because on the journey over to the Americas, the particles pick up pollutants which make the dust that lands in these parts much more toxic than what is actually found in the Sahara. So we all should try to limit our exposure to the dust, if at all possible.

These plumes of dust from the Sahara are an annual phenomenon that occurs between June and July. But this year, the plumes are much larger than has been the case in the last 50 years. Chalk that up to another extreme that has been our 202o experience – first a pandemic, then global protests, now giant plumes of Saharan dust whose long term effects are yet unknown.

We are only at the mid-point of 2020. What else can fate throw at us?