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Air Quality Alert as Saharan Dust Approaches

December 16, 2015
Environmental Protection

Many parts of the UK can expect moderate to poor air quality tomorrow (Thursday) as a new Saharan dust cloud sweeps across the country. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has advised that if the ‘high’ level is reached, there may be a need to reduce physical activity for vulnerable people while, Asthma UK have warned conditions could produce the ‘perfect storm’ for sufferers.

Saharan dust is carried west across the Atlantic by prevailing winds of more than 20mph. The Sahara is the world’s greatest expanse of desert and stretches about 3.5 million square miles across northern Africa. In exceptional circumstances dust has been carried as far as Florida in the US, 5,000 miles away. Conditions are expected to be made worse by the current mild weather with forecasters predicting the warmest December on record after temperatures in London reached 16C, which is nearly 10C above the seasonal average.

The last major incident in the UK was in April 2014 when dust led to high levels of air pollution spreading across southern England and Wales. Air pollution levels are expected to drop by Friday with a risk of moderate levels returning to parts of England and Wales over the weekend.

The incident comes as figures released by DEFRA revealed that spending on air quality had dropped by almost £500,000 in the past 12 months, this includes cutting the local authorities air quality grant programme in half for 2015/16.