Sahara dust reaching Estonia, may fall in snow, sleet or rain

Fine Sahara dust released recently into the atmosphere has been spreading across Europe..
Fine Sahara dust released recently into the atmosphere has been spreading across Europe.. Source: EBU/ERR

Precipitation on Tuesday may bring with it a coating of dust from the Sahara desert, the state weather service (Riigi ilmateenistus) says.

Meteorologist Taimi Paljak told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Tuesday that a powerful airflow had already been bringing the dust, created by storms in the Sahara, to the western edge of Europe, adding a warm air mass may bring it to Estonia between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday.

"It will reach us via a small arc across the Gulf of Bothnia, across Finland, bringing snow and sleet too ... and then it will reaches us," she said.

Should the dust fall in precipitation in the form of snow or sleet, this may be slightly yellow in color, though likely not as garish a shade as seen with some other causes of yellow snow.

Erik Teinemaa, head of the air and climate department of the environmental research center (Keskkonnauuringute keskus), said, however, the effects will not be great in Estonia in comparison with that in countries closer to the source of the dust, such as Spain and Portugal.

Nonetheless, It could both give any snowfall a characteristic color noted above, and may bring a more colorful sunset this evening.

As the same time, the effects were hard to forecast, he added, and the phenomenon is not totally unheard of, even in Estonia, Teinemaa went on.

He said: "Dust storms in the Sahara happen each year. It is estimated that around 200 million tons of sand and/or dust are released into the atmosphere from the Sahara annually. Its arrival in Estonia is not very frequent, although it can happen," adding that the dust can cause breathing difficulties if it descends to the lower atmosphere while suspended in the air.

Taimi Paljak noted that past instances have been recorded, but the effect was more usual in central Europe.

After a cold snap which has seen nighttime temperatures well below -25C in parts of the country, warmer temperatures have been recorded, particularly during the day. This has caused some traffic and other hazards as ice and snow melts during the day and then refreezes at night.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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