Aerosol forecasts from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service show the first large-scale Saharan dust transport of 2023.
An episode of a long-range Saharan dust transport has been crossing the Iberian Peninsula and will continue across France towards northern and central Europe in the coming days.
The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) is tracking the long-range transport of high values of aerosol optical depth (AOD) and dust concentrations originating in the Sahara Desert and travelling across southwestern and western Europe since 20 February.
The dust, initially transported by Calima winds to the Canary Islands, following an earlier Calima episode on 13 February, has the potential for longer-range transport to central and eastern parts of Europe in the coming days.
CAMS forecasts and monitoring have shown Saharan dust transport to the Canary Islands and western Europe during February. Wind-blown dust continues to be active across the Sahara and monitoring conducted by CAMS shows how these dust episodes can potentially affect air quality in the regions it is passing through.
On 21 and 22 February, CAMS forecasts show the dust plume crossing France before moving further to central and eastern parts of Europe, with a prediction for another episode of dust transport across the Mediterranean later in the week.
The monitoring further shows potential impacts on air quality in Spain and France with increased concentrations of PM10 at the surface, which could also be present at higher elevations in the Pyrenees and the Alps.
“It isn’t unusual to be monitoring the transport of Saharan dust across Europe at this time of the year. The typical impact is red or orange sky but there is the potential for impacts on surface air quality, particularly in Spain and Portugal. In recent years we have also seen Saharan dust on the ground in the Pyrenees and the Alps, where the mountains are high enough to intercept the longer-range transport at higher altitudes,” said Mark Parrington, Senior Scientist at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
The impact of the Sahara Dust can affect human health as well as the energy sector. The decrease in air quality which is caused by mineral dust contributing to particulate matter in the atmosphere can affect human health and lead to adverse effects, including the worsening of allergies due to irritants in the dust.
Atmospheric dust particles can also have an impact on solar energy generation, deflecting solar radiation and reducing solar energy output.
Therefore, it is important to forecast the movement and density of dust transport with precision to enable authorities to take measures to protect public health and compensate for other impacts.
CAMS monitors all stages of dust transportation from the Sahara Desert annually and has been providing updates on the severity of this year’s dust transportation.
Additionally, CAMS offers continuous data and forecasts tracking long-range dust transportation both in Europe and globally. The nearly real-time data and tools provided are free-to-use and serve as a tool to aid citizens, businesses, and policymakers in making informed decisions on an ongoing basis with 24/7 air quality forecast data.