Residents across Ross and the Forest of Dean were baffled to find their cars blanketed in a mysterious "dust" after overnight rain, amid the ongoing heatwave that has seen temperatures soar to 30C.
The Met Office has shed light on the mystery, attributing the "dirty" appearance of cars and surfaces to the Sahara desert. Stephen Dixon, a spokesperson for the Met Office, explained, "Saharan dust has been in the atmosphere around the UK in recent days. Some of this has been rained out in early morning showers, which gives this ‘dirty’ look that some people will have noticed on their car this morning."
According to DEFRA, Friday, 8 September, is set to be particularly affected. Moderate air pollution levels are anticipated to spread due to light winds and continued warmth. Some areas, especially Northern Ireland and populous centres in England, might even experience high pollution levels, urging residents to be cautious.
But what exactly is Saharan dust? Originating from the vast Sahara desert in North Africa, it comprises a mix of sand and dust. When strong winds blow over these deserts, they can lift the dust and sand high into the sky. If the upper atmospheric winds are directed northwards, this dust can travel as far as the UK. As raindrops form and fall, they collect these dust particles. Upon landing and evaporating, they leave behind the now-notorious dust layer.
While this might seem unusual, Saharan dust events are relatively common in the UK, occurring several times a year when significant Sahara dust storms align with southerly wind patterns. Beyond just coating cars, this dust can impact air pollution levels. The fine particles can be inhaled, potentially triggering asthma attacks and exacerbating other respiratory conditions.