Guyana currently experiencing impacts of Saharan dust

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Satellite image showing the Saharan dust over Guyana's atmosphere. [Image taken in March 2022]

Guyana is currently experiencing the impacts of Saharan dust which can irritate a person’s airways and cause respiratory issues.

Plumes of Saharan dust are blown from the African continent and travel westward across the Atlantic Ocean, regularly reaching and often settling over the Americas.

In February 2021, the local Hydromet Office issued a statement indicating that the Caribbean – including Guyana – was being affected by the Saharan dust. In January and February of this year, Guyana was once again affected.

During an exclusive interview with INews on Wednesday, Chief Hydrometeorological Officer Dr Garvin Cummings revealed that the country is now again facing some impacts of the dust.

“We are seeing some of the impacts right now actually of the Saharan air layer on local weather. This does not mean that it will necessarily put a threat to the May/June rains but, yes, you will see the Saharan air layer appearing from time to time,” he explained.

“So, what the Saharan air layer basically does, it absorbs all of the moisture in the atmosphere and therefore reduces the potential for cloud development which really is the source for rainfall. So, as result of it inhibiting cloud development, it means that rainfall amounts would be restricted,” he added.

Dr Cummings noted too that while not significantly, Saharan dust can also affect human health.

“It is dust, it is the equivalent as the impact that you would find from pollen…it can cause respiratory discomfort, but I think that’s the greatest extent for persons who suffer with allergies,” he explained.

Dr Cummings explained that Guyana has been experiencing this weather condition for the past ten years.

However, the Hydromet Office and other relevant agencies are now becoming more knowledgeable of its impacts on local weather and people.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 2021 had acquired five air quality sensors; earlier this year, one of the sensors was set up at the EPA’s Gange Street, Sophia, Georgetown Office and was revealed to be able to detect the Saharan dust.

In fact, Dr Cummings said the Hydromet Office and the EPA have a strong and growing relationship which involves the sharing of necessary information including on the Saharan dust.

“The EPA and Hydromet, we have a working relationship because of our common interest in the environment…there is scope there for sharing of data, exchanging of ideas, transferring of knowledge. Some of the data that the EPA is collecting can be utilised by Hydromet for its purposes and vice versa,” he explained.

“Not only in the area of the Saharan air layer or air quality monitoring, but as well as water resources management as well,” Dr Cummings added.