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Strange Spring Weather Leaves Athens in Mars-Like Clouds of Dust

© AFP 2023 / TEEMU SALONENSand from the Sahara desert has fallen on a snowy field in Kurikka, Finland, on February 25, 2021
Sand from the Sahara desert has fallen on a snowy field in Kurikka, Finland, on February 25, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.04.2024
The storm also brought “freak” weather to Finland, with heavier-than-usual snow bringing public transport to a standstill.
This week, Athens was swallowed up by thick orange clouds as a plume of Saharan dust was pushed by jet stream winds and carried northward. It is one of the worst of such instances since 2018, said one official.
“It’s one of the most serious episodes of dust and sand concentrations from the Sahara since March 21-22, 2018, when the clouds invaded the island of Crete in particular,” said Kostas Lagouvardos, weather research director at the Athens Observatory.
The thick, orange haze caused limited visibility and prompted warnings from the authorities about possible breathing risks. The Greek meteorological service said weather conditions on Tuesday had favored the movement of thick concentrations of dust from Africa, particularly in the south of the country.
Luckily the service has predicted that the dust will gradually decrease on Wednesday morning, and from midday onward it will be “limited to the east”. While the dust made Athens look like a “colony of Mars” proclaimed one meteorologist, this natural phenomenon is not unheard of.
The Sahara releases 60 to 200 million tonnes of mineral dust a year. While the largest particles settle, the smaller particles are able to travel thousands of kilometers, including all of Europe. However, a low-pressure system over northern Africa has already managed to sweep dust over Cyprus several times in mid-April, darkening skies and reducing air quality, according to NASA.
The Saharan air that was pushed over the Mediterranean was substantially hot, with several countries observing their hottest April weather on record. Nifer and Chat also set April high temperature records on Wednesday with 117 degrees (47.2C) in Tillaberi, Niger, and 116.6 degrees (47C) in Bokoro, Chad, according to a London-based meteorologist.
The south of Greece has also been experiencing unseasonal early wildfires due to the strong southerly winds. On Tuesday, the fire service said that a total of 25 wildfires broke out across the region within 24 hours. Three people on the island of Paros, a resort island, were arrested on suspicion of accidentally starting a scrub blaze on Monday. The fire was quickly contained and no significant damage or injuries were reported.
In August, 18 charred bodies were discovered in a remote village in northeastern Greece where wildfires had been burning for days amid record heat waves across southern Europe.
Meanwhile, unseasonably cold temperatures in Europe have been continuous and have set records for being the coldest this late in the year since the 1990s. More than a dozen cities in Germany also set record lows for an unusually cold spring while a number of cities in Italy also recorded their coldest afternoon high temperatures for the season.
Helsinki, Finland has been experiencing heavier-than-usual snow and still had 3.1 inches (8 cm) earlier this week which is the latest of such an instance since 1972.
Some areas experienced more than 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) of snow to some areas causing trams, buses and other metro services in the capital to be delayed as well as flight cancellations. The weather is not unusual for the capital, said the press office for Helsinki’s public transport operator. But it is unusual for late April.
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