Sahara dust causes ‘sharp rise’ in European air pollution – turning parts of the continent orange

Researchers say levels of harmful particles increased in some cities in southern and central Europe.

A plume of Sahara dust has caused a sharp rise in air pollution in parts of southern and central Europe, researchers have said.

The huge cloud of fine sand moving northward from Algeria has blanketed the region, turning skies red in Stuttgart in Germany and leaving slopes of the Alps and Pyrenees looking orange.

The European Commission’s Copernicus satellite monitoring programme said levels of particles smaller than 10 micrometres, which are better known as PM10s, increased in cities such as Barcelona, Lyon and Marseille on Sunday.

View of the cross-country ski track covered with sand, on Saturday, 6 February 2021, at La Fouly in the Val Ferret, Switzerland. The sand of the Sahara has visibly darkened the sky in some places in Switzerland today. After an already increased concentration of dust from the African desert on Friday, even more sand was streaming into Switzerland on Saturday, Meteosuisse reported. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
The Sahara dust cloud carried particles that can cause breathing difficulties and left some ski slopes looking orange in Switzerland. Pic: AP

While PM10 particles can cause breathing difficulties, asthma attacks and heart problems if inhaled, the concentration of dust did not reach harmful levels.

NASA observed another large Sahara dust plume over the Atlantic, in June last year, which showed it had spread over 2,000 miles (3,200km).

06 February 2021, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Yellow-reddish skies appear over downtown from a vantage point because there is supposed to be Sahara dust in the air. Photo by: Marijan Murat/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
The dust travelled from North Africa, turning skies in the German city Stuttgart a yellow-reddish colour. Pic: AP

According to NASA’s website, “hundreds of millions of tons of dust are picked up from the deserts of Africa and blown across the Atlantic Ocean each year”.

It added: “That dust helps build beaches in the Caribbean and fertilizes soils in the Amazon. It can also affect air quality in North and South America.”

By : Jess Sharp – SKY News

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