a little bit of Africa comes to Suffolk

Noticed more dust in the air and it’s a git to get off the windscreen. Apparently a little bit of the Sahara is paying a visit, so the wipers are sanding the glass. The reports in the grauniad seems to be particularly dire, however – I walked four miles today, partly in search of the perfect black car to take this. Can’t say I felt particularly like this mother and child – it must be really bad in The Smoke!

Leanne Stewart, from Eltham in south-east London, described feeling breathless after a routine half-mile walk to her son’s school this morning.

“I’ve been doing the usual school run about half a mile from my house, which is usually quite an easy walk, but I’m still breathless now,” she said. “I could feel my chest getting tighter and tighter and my son, who’s eight, had to stop and have his inhaler.

What I really wanted was a classic black Beemer with the dust on the bonnet but we clearly don’t have the wealth or the drug dealers in my part of town

Saharan dust on a black car in Ipswich
Exotic Saharan dust on a black car in Ipswich

with London and East Anglia in the boresight of the winds bringing this sand

incoming pollution aleart from DEFRA
incoming pollution alert from DEFRA

It’ll be interesting to stick a microscope slide outside tonight and try and catch some of this stuff and see if it looks like miniature sharp sand. It’s a shame that I didn’t try that when we had those lovely aircraft-free skies with the volcanish ash clouds from Eyjafjallajökull

The Guardian has a bit more about where the dust comes from

So just where does this pinky-red dust come from? Dr Steven Godby, a drylands expert at Nottingham Trent University, thinks he has the answer:

The Sahara is the largest desert in the world and contains a number of significant dust source areas. Looking at satellite images captured last Thursday and Friday it seems the dust was generated from two source areas, one in central Algeria close to Tamanrasset and another in southern Morocco to the south of the Atlas Mountains.

To generate dust storms large numbers of silt-sized particles are needed for the wind to pick up and transport and these two areas have been identified as dust ‘hot spots’ in the past.

Google maps link

All this talk of the winds from the south making the old ones feel lethargic brought this old Grace Slick tune from the cusp of the 1980s to mind 🙂

Postscript 4 April – I got my Beemer in the end

one dusty black BMW
one dusty black BMW

I left a microscope slide out in the garden for 24 hours to pick up some dust. The dust looks reasonably sharp and spiky through a microscope. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven a microscope, and the Ermine student microscope is probably not really up to the job 😉

the odd sharp little bits
odd sharp little bits of Africa

 

dark field variant
dark field variant

 

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