Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Sirocco and Harmattan Dust Winds Facts

Sirocco and Harmattan Dust Winds Facts

Sirocco winds of coastal North Africa reach a peak in March and in November. Harmattan wind season in West Africa is November to March. Sirocco and Harmattan dust winds affects the entire worlds respiratory health. Fine particles of African dust can penetrate more easily into the human respiratory and circulatory system than larger particles.

Ill Dust Wind Blows
Dust Wind Blows

Sirocco winds of coastal North Africa

The Sirocco wind is a hot, dry sirocco wind blowing north from the Sahara is frequent during the summer season, bringing blinding sand and dust storms to North African coastal regions of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. 

They reach a peak in March and in November when it is very hot. Sirocco winds originate in hot, dry air over the Saharan desert. The Sirocco wind picks up a lot of the moisture in the air over the Mediterranean Sea and becomes a humid warm wind. 

The wind began as a hot dry wind from the Sahara desert and blows northward. Sirocco winds are strong with wind speeds of up to 62 miles per hour.

Harmattan winds of West Africa

West Africa is well known for African dust laden Harmattan winds. The Harmattan wind is strongest from the end of November to March and is a very dry and very dusty trade wind that blows from the Atlantic Ocean across West Africa. Harmattan trade winds also steer African dust and fine sand westward across the Atlantic ocean into the Southeastern part of the USA and the Caribbean Sea.

In Texas and many other Southern US states, African dust has become a real issue in recent years. Allergy sufferers health worsens from health-related issues that come with the onslaught of the Africa red dust from the Sahara desert.

African red dust storms can cause air pollution to increase and can aggravate breathing problems. Health professionals warn the dust may irritate lung tubes and cause asthma to flare up. African dust clouds from the Sahara are often so big they can be seen from space.

Harmattan winds in West Africa are cold, dry, dust-laden winds. Harmattan wind temperature fluctuates from cold to temperate. Humidity drops by 10 to 15 percent during the Harmattan season. The dry dusty wind is capable of causing a variety of infrastructure troubles. This fine dust covers the entire atmosphere causing limited visibility comparable to heavy rain or snowstorm. This condition is called the Harmattan haze.

A harmattan wind brings very dry weather conditions, lower humidity, scatters cloud cover, prevents rainfall formation and creates clouds of dust resulting in dust storms. These dust storms have grave medical consequence, as it consists of fine dust particles between 0.5 micrometers and 10 micrometers that is 17 times smaller than the width of a single strand of human hair. The skin can become dry during Harmattan season as a result of the dry wind. When the skin is dry, it becomes wrinkled. The skin can also have cracks, which can degenerate into bruises.

People especially sickle cell anemia patients also have the tendency to develop skin rashes during the season, which can also induce itching, whereby they may inadvertently introduce infections to the skin. In West Africa, people breathe dry air dusty particles leading to an increased incidence of sneezing, nose bleeding, and cough, mucus, sore throat, as well as trigger attacks in asthmatic patients.

The Harmattan, a wind that plays such an important part in the climate of the Guinea coast. The Harmattan winds blow during the winter months along the coast of Guinea to the Cameroons. The Harmattan winds blows from the Northeast, with dust particles brought from the Sahara desert.

The severity of the Harmattan has been attributed to the encroaching desert due to deforestation. It is exceedingly dry and brings with it fine sand which enters the crevices of doors and windows, covering everything with a film of dust including thick deposits of dust on buildings and furniture. It is generally accompanied by thick fog or mist and the sun is partially obscured blowing erratically from November to March.

The Sahara desert wind and dust

The Sahara desert is one of the most prolific sources of dust in the world. Saharan dust, in particular, can be transported and deposited as far as the Caribbean and the Amazon basin, and may affect air temperatures, cause ocean cooling, and alter rainfall amounts. One of the largest sources of dust in the Sahara is the Bodélé Depression, a dried lakebed in northern Chad that is rich with silt and fine-grained dust.

The average home in the United States collects 40 pounds of dust each year. Fine particles of African dust can penetrate more easily into the human respiratory and circulatory system than larger particles. Water clarity also decreases during harmattan seasons. Air pollution from African dust storms is of overwhelming importance to public health in Africa, yet it is hardly on the radar in most West African countries.

In legend, the Harmattan season has a positive side since a severe Harmattan season means a fruitful harvest for fruit trees like mangoes, avocado, and guava. Trees and plants in the Amazon Rainforest rely on the nutrient-rich dust, which helps to keep the area fertile.

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