Huge dust storms over Africa made a 5,000-mile trans-Atlantic journey, sailing over the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexica, making landfall on Thursday, engulfing several states in dessert dust. Portions of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida were covered in milky-looking skies and enjoyed an unusually enhanced sunset on Friday evening. The dense dust cloud, nicknamed the “Gorilla Dust Cloud”, is expected to move across the southern US over the weekend. A thinner cloud is expected to travel up the east coast. A denser concentration of dust will hover over the Southeast, mainly Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
It has been several decades since such a phenomenon has appeared in the US and the current dust cloud breaks all records.
The ongoing Saharan #dust outbreak across the tropical Atlantic is *by far* the most extreme of the MODIS satellite record — our most detailed, continuous record of global dust back to 2002. Daily MDR AOD of 1.66 shatters previous daily record of 1.13 set July 31, 2013. #SAL pic.twitter.com/yv2VW9LUYO
— Michael Lowry (@MichaelRLowry) June 24, 2020
As the dust crosses the Atlantic, “it usually occupies a 2-mile-thick layer of the atmosphere with its base starting about 1 mile above the surface,” NOAA hurricane researcher Jason Dunion said. The dust was so thick in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean, it darkened the skies and reduced visibility to only a few miles. The dust adversely affects air quality and experts noted that the dust could add to challenges faced by people infected with the coronavirus, complicating the respiratory ailments they face. Medical experts recommended staying indoors.
The dust cloud was so immense that it could be clearly seen from the International Space Station.
We flew over this Saharan dust plume today in the west central Atlantic. Amazing how large an area it covers! pic.twitter.com/JVGyo8LAXI
— Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) June 21, 2020
Though rare. the appearance of Saharan dust over the US is not unheard of. referred to as the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), it occurs when an extremely hot, dry and dust-laden layer of the atmosphere overlies the cooler, more-humid surface air of the Atlantic Ocean. Nonetheless, this appearance of the SAL surprised scientists.
The skies above your head shall be copper and the earth under you iron. Hashem will make the rain of your land dust, and sand shall drop on you from the sky, until you are wiped out. Deuteronomy 28:23-24
It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for sand, חול (chol), is the same as the word for “secular” or “ordinary” ,that which is not set aside or holy. This may lend a double-meaning to the verse in Isaiah.