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The Sahara Desert Forces Dust-mixed Smog over London, England

Updated on April 3, 2014

Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert | Source

Red Dust and Smog

Red dust and smog seen from a rooftop.
Red dust and smog seen from a rooftop. | Source

UK Smog Index

UK's smog index for April 2014.
UK's smog index for April 2014. | Source

London Smog

Air pollution is seen above at the highest levels directly over London and the Southeast UK.

Note that it is a 10 on the pollution scale, which poses the most dangerous health conditions.

Air Pollution + Dust = Dangerous Conditions

April 2014 - Smog is forcing people in London to stay indoors, with a mixture of air pollution plus Sahara desert dust, creating a dangerous atmosphere for humans.

People in England saw the evidence of this pollution on their cars in the form of a orange-red dust after the recent rain.

England's public health system is advising everyone with extreme cardiac and respiratory conditions to not go outside. Heathrow Airport near London has cancelled or delayed flights due to the adverse smog and dust conditions.

Meteorologists explain that nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and toxic gases have swirled together with an influx of Sahara desert dust to create a hazardous conglomerate of smog. The light winds in the atmosphere are making things worse, since they are not carrying the Sahara desert dust away from urban centers.

One resident of southeast London, Leanne Stewart, tells a reporter that she was out of breath after a half-mile walk to take her son to school. This is a walk she makes every day without any respiratory problems.

Sahara Desert Dust is 'Good' for Nature, but 'Bad' for Urban Cities

However, ecologists point out that the Sahara desert dust is actually good for ecosystems that can absorb it. The dangers are seen more in cities and urban environments that cannot easily synthesize the dust left behind.

Sahara Desert Dust Infographic

An infographic explaining how the Sahara desert dust is good for ecosystems, but not so good for city dwellers.
An infographic explaining how the Sahara desert dust is good for ecosystems, but not so good for city dwellers. | Source

Sahara Dust Infographic Explained

The infographic (above) shows what is happening in Western Europe.

  1. Dust storms from the Sahara desert swirl and move loose sand and dirt inside small whirlwinds. Updrafts pick up the dust particles into the atmosphere.
  2. Strong winds carry these dust "clouds" across the ocean, making it northward to Europe. This dust that originates from the Sahara desert is rich in nutrients, which fish and algae in the ocean consume.
  3. Rainfall from these dusty clouds leave rich particles wherever the rain touches, resulting in a orange/red dust. These dust clouds can also carry volatile organic compounds behind.
  4. Fields in Europe, South America, and North America are enriched with the winds carry dust from the Sahara desert, and then rainfall brings it to the soil.
  5. The orange/red dust left behind can cause health problems for people living in cities.
  6. The nutrients contained in the Sahara dust is finally carried to rain forests, which help maintain a healthy ecosystem.

SkyNews on London Smog in April 2014

Air Pollution Deaths

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 7 million people die worldwide each year from air pollution; half of these are accredited to indoor stove fumes, while the other 3.5 million are credited to outdoor pollutants, including smog.

© 2014 zeke2100


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    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 3 years ago

      I found it interesting that nature and farmlands absorb the dust without any problem. But when you have brick, and metal and concrete everywhere, then the dust is not assimilated. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      Thanks for warning people about the danger areas. This is an interesting hub. I took two environmental geology courses while I was in college and we never talked about the good things the desert sands could bring with it. All the professor discussed were the negative impacts, so I'm glad you wrote about both.

    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 3 years ago

      Be safe out there!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi Zeke, spotted your forum post, I live in the area in England thats on the map, the red area, I just looked up in Google my actual area and its not 10 but a 9, and I have to go out in it in a minute! Great explanation, I didn't know all that about the Sahara dust, so it was fascinating reading, thanks, nell