“Today’s misty fog is relatively common, but what’s not so well known is the reasons behind this event, which suggest the UK experiencing similar episodes of extremely poor air quality may be something that will happen more and more in the future.
“The dust that has blown over from the Sahara and caused this mist of toxic air (which has been mixed with other pollutants from Europe on route to the UK) is largely made up of fine soil particles that are ejected into the atmosphere by the action of strong winds on the surface of the Earth. Once caught in the wind, these small particles can travel large distances before returning to the surface either via rainfall or simply under the influence of gravity.
“Wind erosion of soils is particularly apparent in arid regions, where soils tend to be dry and vegetation, which can protect soil, tends to be sparse. In these regions we can see that the frequency of dust storms is changing in response to unsustainable agriculture in some parts of Africa and apparent impacts of climatic change.”
Dr Bryant, who is conducting research into the causes of Saharan dust being blown to the UK added:
“Research on the impacts of dust suggest that it can irritate respiratory disorders (including asthma, tracheitis, pneumonia, allergic rhinitis and silicosis) cardiovascular disorders (including stroke), conjunctivitis, skin irritations, meningococcal meningitis, valley fever, and injuries related to transport accidents (e.g. car crashes caused by low visibility in dust storms In the USA, and aviation issues such has helicopter crashes in Afghanistan).
“However, we also know that dust can have much wider impacts in affecting short-term climate by directly reducing average daytime temperatures and indirectly affecting cloudiness, rainfall patterns and other regional climate phenomena.”