Have a look at these images of the smoke plume being generated by fires in forests and other wildlands in the western United States.
While viewing these amazing images, consider for a moment the plight of migrating birds. Each one struggles to survive the energy-depleting effects of wind, distance, storm, cold, drought, dust, and sometimes even smoke as it strives to reach its breeding grounds each spring and its wintering grounds each fall. Natural and man-made effects can cause migrating birds to become disoriented. Songbirds are known to become lost at sea. Others strike objects including buildings and radio towers, particularly when visibility is impaired. The dangers seem endless.
For migrating birds, places of refuge where they can stop to feed and rest during their long journeys are essential to their survival. For species attempting flights through conditions as extreme as those seen in these images, there is the potential for significant loss of life, particularly among the birds with less than optimal stores of energy.
After threading its way through waves of Saharan dust plumes, Tropical Storm Isaias, or the remnants thereof, is making a run up the eastern seaboard toward the lower Susquehanna watershed.
Heavy rain and flooding appears likely, particularly east of the Susquehanna. Now might be a good time to clean up the trash and garbage that could clog nearby storm drains or otherwise find its way into your local waterway. NOW is the time to get all your stuff out of the floodplain! The car, the camper, the picnic table, the lawn furniture, the kid’s toys, the soda bottles, the gas cans, the lawn chemicals, the Styrofoam, and all that other junk you’ve piled up. Get that stuff cleaned up and out of the floodway. And of course, get you and your pets out of the there too!
Dust continues to be carried aloft on dry updrafts over the Sahara Desert. The plume is presently stretching for thousands of miles due west across the tropical Atlantic into the Pacific, leaving the United States out of the loop—at least for now.
With no dry air to spoil the fun, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream off the coast of North Carolina are spawning some convective clouds in a low pressure system that could become tropical within the next day or so.
Now that the heat and humidity is upon us, why not get out and take a look at the damselflies and dragonflies that inhabit the ponds, wetlands, and waterways of the lower Susquehanna watershed? These flying insects thrive in sultry weather and some species will breed in a body of water as small as a garden pond—as long as it is free of large fish. Check out some of the species found locally by clicking on the “Damselflies and Dragonflies” tab at the top of this page. We’ll be adding more photos and species soon.
The overcast of Saharan dust that was as close to the Susquehanna valley as the Appalachians of Virginia and West Virginia has, for now, dissipated. This week, the plume of particulates followed a hairpin route originating with the Saharan updrafts, then flowing across the Atlantic and Caribbean only to make a 180-degree turn along the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico to return to the Atlantic via Florida, where it then drifted northeast—loosely following the path of the Gulf Stream.
During the last several days, portions of the dust layer have been carried due west across Mexico into the Pacific.
For the Susquehanna region, a low pressure system is in place for Independence Day. In the image below, the cloud of hazy humid air seen blanketing the northeast coast consists of air pollution, pollen, mold spores, “domestic particulates”, condensing water vapor—and little if any red-brown Saharan dust. For the gasoline and gunpowder gang, it’ll be a sticky-hot summer weekend for the celebration of their favorite holiday. Kaboom!
The latest satellite image shows the Saharan dust cloud now covering much of the southern United States including most of West Virginia and the Appalachians of North Carolina and Virginia. Due to the density of the particulate matter, air quality warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service for South Carolina, western North Carolina, and the Atlanta metro area.
As the plume of dust drifts east from the southern United States into the Atlantic…
…yet more can be seen coming west from the African Sahara into the Caribbean Sea. It ain’t over til’ it’s over.
The Saharan dust cloud made its way across the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico to reach the skies above the shores of the United States by mid-day yesterday. There, as seen in the image below, the dusty air mass encountered a storm that caused heavy rains and flooding in Louisiana.
By this morning, the leading edge of the dust cloud encircled the gulf coastline and had spread east across northern Florida into the Atlantic. The latest satellite image (below) shows a dense dry core of the system covering the western Caribbean, the central gulf, and the Yucatan Peninsula.
For the eastern Caribbean, there is a break in the action. But a second wave is on the way.
Start watching the skies. Look for any increase in haze during the coming days. Then too, it might be interesting to compare the sunsets for one evening to the next. Over successive nights, take note of the stars and planets in the night sky. If the Saharan dust reaches the lower Susquehanna region with sufficient density, you may find that only the brightest celestial objects are discernible.
Dust carried aloft by hot dry air over the Sahara Desert continues to stream west into the Caribbean Sea. In this image, a dense band of the airborne particles can be seen passing over the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Leeward Islands. North of these islands, note the development of puffy white clouds outside the border of the dust storm. The Saharan air mass appears to be effectively limiting convective cloud development within much of its course. No hurricanes for now.
What is the impact of the Saharan dust cloud on the affected islands? In Puerto Rico, the National Weather Service is forecasting visibility of four to eight miles in widespread haze through at least the next twenty-four hours. For the coming several days, the forecast daily high temperatures are expected to be in the low eighties—several degrees cooler than the normal high eighties and low nineties.
Stay tuned, we’ll keep an eye on the plume as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico.
Summer is nigh upon us. With the solstice just hours away, it might be fun to have a look at a satellite view of the earth while the south pole lies plunged into days of endless night, and the north pole suffers none.
In the image above, darkness can be seen engulfing the southern Atlantic Ocean and southernmost Chile. The latter is the longitudinal equivalent of the lower Susquehanna valley. Today, it experiences nightfall more than five hours earlier than we, heralding the first day of our summer, and of their winter.
Just to the north of the South American continent, note the enormous tan-colored cloud over the Atlantic. What is that? From whence doth that cloud come?
Closer inspection reveals an enormous plume of dust rising from the Sahara Desert in Africa and drifting west approaching the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. (In the image above, Africa can be seen outlined in the darkness along the east horizon) Look closely and you’ll notice that the dust is obscuring the white clouds below it, indicating that it has reached altitudes high in the atmosphere. Particle fallout from Saharan dust clouds is known to fertilize tropical forests—including the Amazon (bottom center of image). Because they are composed of wind blown particles and not water vapor, Saharan dust clouds carry aloft not only minerals and nutrients, but microscopic and macroscopic life too.
Is this particular Saharan dust cloud going to impact the Amazon? What might the meteorological and biological effects of this cloud be if it continues into the Caribbean and even into the United States? Might we be showered by little pieces of the Sahara this summer? Will we see spectacular sunrises and sunsets? Time will tell.