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North African Dust To Cloud Central Illinois Sky

Kristin McHugh/WCBU
Giza Plateau on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, is part of the Sahara Desert

Central Illinois skies could look different this weekend thanks to Sahara Desert dust. 

National Weather Service meteorologist Lyle Barker said trade winds are blowing North African dust across the Atlantic Ocean. 

He said while visibility is greatly reduced in some Caribbean Islands, central Illinois will notice different sunrises and sunsets.

“The sunlight that is bouncing off the particles of dust are going to cause the atmosphere to accentuate the red and the oranges of sunset, sunrise,” he said, adding the sky changes will begin over the weekend.

He said area residents may also notice a little extra dust outside.

“You could get a little bit of a fallout from some of the dust, meaning that you might have a thin layer of dust like on your vehicle or anything else that’s sitting outside,” said Barker.

He said the dust will only marginally affect local air quality. However, people with lung ailments should monitor for any air quality advisories.

Barker said the remnants of North African dust can affect the Midwest a few times a year, but this latest round’s concentration is higher and atypical. 

Barker said the high atmosphere Saharan phenomena is different than dust storms typical to the Southwest or Plains states. He said North American dust storms are closer to the Earth’s surface locally.

Kristin McHugh is an experienced radio journalist and nonprofit manager. Most recently, she served as executive director of the Peoria Area World Affairs Council.