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A vast cloud of Sahara dust blanketing Havana, Cuba, as people fish on Wednesday. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images

A giant, dense plume of Saharan dust is shrouding much of the Caribbean as it heads westward toward Central America and the southern U.S. this week.

Why it matters: The dust cloud blanketing Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and eastern Cuba on Tuesday prompted authorities to issue health warnings across the region as air quality plummeted to unhealthy levels, per Reuters.

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
  • Pablo Méndez Lázaro, from the University of Puerto Rico's School of Public Health, told AP, "This is the most significant event in the past 50 years. Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands."
  • Aallergist and American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology president J. Allen Meadows said in a statement on Tuesday that dust storms and air pollution "can make asthma symptoms worse and make breathing more difficult."

The big picture: Per the NOAA, the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) is a mass of "very dry, dusty air" that forms over the Sahara Desert in northern Africa.

  • SAL outbreaks usually occupy a two- to 2.5-mile-thick layer of the atmosphere with the base starting about one mile above the surface. It reduced visibility in some areas to five miles when it reached the eastern Caribbean over the weekend, per a NOAA statement.
  • "The main impacts of the Saharan dust are a whitening of the sky during daylight hours, redder sunsets, and decreased air quality," NOAA said in a statement on Tuesday.

What to expect The Saharan dust layer is due to hit the Florida Peninsula and Gulf Coast "in the coming days," according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

  • In a statement posted to Twitter, Sonoma Tech meteorologist Jeff Beamish pointed to modeling showing SAL impacts for Texas and Louisiana by Thursday, "potentially spreading" into the central and eastern US by Saturday.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump admin will grant $11.6 billion to Puerto Rico's recovery, three years after Hurricane Maria

Tropical Storm Laura passes through Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico on Aug. 22. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

Three years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the White House on Friday authorized $11.6 billion in federal aid and FEMA grants to rebuild infrastructure on the island.

Why it matters: Throughout his presidency, Trump has resisted giving Puerto Rico any more federal money for its recovery from Hurricane Maria. The White House touted the grants announced Friday as some of the largest in FEMA's history.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
38 mins ago - Economy & Business

The Fed could be firing up economic stimulus in disguise

Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard at a "Fed Listens" event. Photo: Eric Baradat / AFP via Getty Images.

Even as global growth expectations increase and governments pile on fiscal spending measures central bankers are quietly restarting recession-era bond-buying programs.

Driving the news: Comments Tuesday from Fed governor Lael Brainard suggest the Fed may be jumping onboard the global monetary policy rethink and restarting a program used following the 2008 global financial crisis.

Democrats' hypocrisy moment

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Ray Tamarra/Getty Images

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should be facing explicit calls to resign from President Biden on down, if you apply the standard that Democrats set for similar allegations against Republicans. And it's not a close call.

Why it matters: The #MeToo moment saw men in power run out of town for exploiting young women. Democrats led the charge. So the silence of so many of them seems more strange — and unacceptable by their own standards — by the hour.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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