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Gulf weather keeps Saharan dust out of Texas until Thursday

NOAA satellite image shows Beryl over the Carribean Ocean on July 2, 2024. Brown Saharan dust is visible to its far right

The National Weather Service reports a high-pressure system in the northern Gulf of Mexico is preventing Saharan dust from blowing into Texas, at least until Wednesday.

The edge of the dust plume will float over the southern coast of Texas by Wednesday. By Thursday, the dust will combine with residual smoke from agricultural burning in Mexico and Central America.

The dust and smoke will keep San Antonio air quality in the Alamo City in the "moderate" range, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Smoke from fireworks Thursday night will add to the air pollution in the city.

Residents should take this as a reminder to change the air filters in their home. They should also at least keep a mask with them if air quality worsens while they're out. People with heart and lung ailments should limit their time outdoors.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Matt Brady said Hurricane Beryl could dissipate the Saharan dust. He said if Beryl creates widespread rain across the Gulf of Mexico, little of the dust would reach South Texas. By the end of the week, forecasters will have a better idea of the kind of risk the hurricane will pose to South Texas.

The African dust can be bothersome, but it has significant overall benefits to the Western Hemisphere.

KUT's Mose Buchele explained in a recent report about the dust that it comes from "ancient lake creatures. ... These microscopic diatoms thrived in massive inland lakes in North Africa about 6,000 years ago. When natural changes in climate brought an end to the African 'humid period,' the lakes dried up. But the tiny skeletons of those diatoms remained. They formed a fine, powdery sand that now covers the region."

He added that the phosphorous in the dust acts like a fertilizer and nurtures plant growth. "In fact," he wrote, "researchers believe the Amazon rainforests of South America rely on annual injections of Saharan dust to stay healthy and green."

KUT's Mose Buchele contributed to this report.

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