Saharan dust could enhance red tide and provide fewer storms in Bay Area

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ST.PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Fine particles of dust from the Saharan desert are making for some beautiful sunsets across the bay area.

But there’s a downside to the African import. The dust contains an ingredient that can make red tide go wild.

A new law kicks in Monday that provides state funds to study, control, or at least mitigate the effects of the harmful red tide algae bloom.

Who can forget the site and, hold your nose, the smell of dead fish, washing up on our shores, killed by red tide.

The algae bloom turned into an environmental and economic disaster.

USF College of Marine Science Associate Professor, Dr. Mark Luther said there’s not much that can be done about red tide, formed 40 to 50 miles out in the gulf.

But when current and wind patterns bring it closer to shore, land-based pollution could be controlled.  “That is where it sometimes will meet plumes of Lake Okeechobee water coming from out of the Caloosahatchee river down around Fort Myers, Sanibel, Captiva area. And that makes it worse locally” said Dr. Luther.

Stemming land-based pollution could help limit red tide outbreaks.

Dr. Luther applauds efforts to study red tide, as research could lead to a better understanding of how it’s formed.

And that Saharan dust turning our skies hazy? “Then you get plumes of African dust coming over from the Sahara desert, that puts just enough iron into the water, to allow these organisms to bloom,” said Dr. Luther.

But there’s a positive side to the dust clouds overhead.

“It does bring in drier air and help to suppress showers and thunderstorms.  But it also helps to provide a hazy atmosphere. In the tropics, it helps to create fewer storms in the Atlantic basin” said Storm Team 8 Meteorologist Steve Jerve.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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