The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

An estimated 180,000 tons of Saharan dust in the skies over Switzerland

Cloudy and yellow skies: an extraordinary amount of Saharan dust has settled over Switzerland. According to forecast models, it was the equivalent of 180,000 tons of dust over Switzerland on Saturday, said meteorologist Roman Brogli from SRF Meteo on the radio.

According to Brogli, this is an unusually large amount. The most recent such events had only brought about half as much dust to Switzerland. A strong southerly current had already transported dust from the Sahara desert in northern Africa to Switzerland on Friday.

The Sahara is the largest source of mineral dust, releasing between 60 and 200 million tons of dust per year. While the larger particles quickly fall to the ground again, the smaller ones can be carried thousands of kilometers and reach the whole of Europe. Saharan dust events contribute significantly to aerosol pollution in spring and fall.

Slowed down skiing

When Saharan dust is in the air, it reflects and scatters some of the sunlight. The sky turns yellowish and the sunrises and sunsets are more spectacular. If it settles on snow, it can slow down skiing, among other things.

The dust particles in the air are an additional uncertainty factor for the weather forecast. They can also promote cloud formation. For nature, on the other hand, the minerals are a good fertilizer.

Influence on health

The short-lived Saharan dust is likely to have a negligible impact on the health of the vast majority of people. Natural particulate matter makes up around one percent of the other total particulate matter concentration.

At over nine million square kilometers, the Sahara is the largest dry desert on earth. It is roughly the size of the entire USA and stretches in Africa from the Atlantic coast to the Red Sea coast.

©Keystone/SDA

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