Red dust covering cars in the south this weekend was blown in from the Sahara Desert. A large amount of sand and dust was swept up by storm winds in the desert, around 2000 miles away in northwest Africa. The airborne particles were blown north to the UK where they combined with our warm air and were deposited during showers.
Paul Hutcheon at the Met Office said “We usually see this happen several times a year when big dust storms in the Sahara coincide with southerly winds to bring that dust here. More dust rain is possible during showers expected later this week.”
Saharan dust is lifted by strong winds and can reach very high altitudes; from there it can be transported worldwide by winds, covering distances of thousands of kilometers. The dust gets caught in rain droplets in clouds, falling to the ground in rain. When the water evaporates, a thin layer of dust is left on surfaces, like cars. It can also lead to vivid sunsets.
Generally winds of more than 20 miles per hour are needed to lift sand at the Saharan Desert has been experiencing some gale force winds (over 40 miles per hour).
Saharan dust is also a contributing factor to air quality in addition to pollution levels and weather conditions.