SWFL's hazy skies caused by Sahara dust layer

A Saharan dust layer departs Africa on the back of a tropical wave. Expect more dust next week. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

A Saharan dust layer departs Africa on the back of a tropical wave. Expect more dust next week. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

William DeShazer/Staff
Dyamond Henderson, 17, of Fort Myers, builds a sandcastle as the sun sets at the beach in Bonita Springs on Thursday July 19, 2012. The remnants of a Saharan dust storm have traversed the Atlantic Ocean and are responsible for a recent haze hanging high in the atmosphere over Southwest Florida.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Dyamond Henderson, 17, of Fort Myers, builds a sandcastle as the sun sets at the beach in Bonita Springs on Thursday July 19, 2012. The remnants of a Saharan dust storm have traversed the Atlantic Ocean and are responsible for a recent haze hanging high in the atmosphere over Southwest Florida.

It was a cloud of dust even the Lone Ranger's faithful steed couldn't kick up.

A layer of dusty air blew into Southwest Florida on Thursday from all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, hanging a haze across the horizon and keeping people's eyes squinting skyward.

The Sahara routinely whips up dust storms and sends them eastward in the summer, but they don't always make it to Florida, National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Gregoria said.

"Even though it happens a few times a year, it's still a cool thing when it happens," he said.

The hazy conditions should dissipate through the day Friday, but another African blast is expected to arrive Monday through Tuesday, Gregoria said.

The Department of Health issued no official air warnings, but spokeswoman Deb Milsap suggested people with heart or lung conditions limit their time outdoors.

Besides being dusty, the Saharan air mass also is dry and iron rich. The dry air helps to limit hurricane formation, but some scientists theorize that the iron can start a marine chain reaction that leads to red tides.

Another, more appealing, side effect: Sunsets are more spectacular with dust hanging 5,000 feet up in the air, Gregoria said.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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