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Sahara dust cloud smothers Germany, France and Switzerland

March 30, 2024

Residents of some cities had a dusty start to the weekend after an unusually high level of particulates arrived from the Sahara. Forecasters in Germany expect the dust to be visible through Easter.

An aerial view of Nice during a dust storm
The sky over the French riviera city of Nice turned orange as a cloud of dust swept across EuropeImage: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Parts of Europe were clouded on Saturday by an exceptionally rare haze of dust swept up from the Sahara desert.

The dust cast an orange tinge in the skies over parts of France, Switzerland and southern Germany.

"The Sahara dust has already arrived, which you can see in the yellowish cloudiness in the air," said Christian Herold, a meteorologist at the German Weather Service.

In Germany, the dust is expected to be visible on Easter Sunday as well, Der Spiegel reported.

Between 60 and 200 million tonnes of mineral dust are swept up from the Sahara each year. While the larger particles quickly fall back down to Earth, the smallest particles can sometimes travel for thousands of kilometers.

Mountains in St. Margrethenberg during a dust storm
Authorities in Switzerland reported extremely high levels of dust particles in the airImage: Gian Ehrenzeller/KEYSTONE/picture alliance

Authorities flag air pollution

The blanket of Saharan dust affected air quality in some areas.

Switzerland's airCHeck monitoring service flagged high levels of pollution in a corridor stretching from the southwest to the northeast of the country.

Roman Brogli, a meteorologist with Swiss broadcaster SRF, said around 180,000 tonnes of dust has been recorded — around twice as much as similar dust storms in recent years.

Meanwhile, local authorities in France announced that the air pollution threshold had been passed in some areas. The department of Herault, on the Mediterranean coast, warned residents against intense physical activities.

zc/rc (dpa, AFP)