Reduced Skies

Hazy skies, reduced visibility and colorful sunsets: Another dust storm from the Sahara to hit US this week

Published 5:56 p.m. ET June 29, 2020 | Updated 10:35 p.m. ET June 29, 2020


The long-awaited cloud of Saharan dust will bring beautiful sunsets but also potential breathing problems.


Another week, another Saharan dust storm.

If you missed out on the first round of Saharan dust that coated parts of the southern U.S. last week, you’ll get another chance this week.

Yet another plume is forecast to reach the western Gulf Coast and Lower Mississippi Valley on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. It could linger near the western and northern Gulf coasts into Thursday, according to the latest forecast, said.

“The main impacts of the Saharan dust will be hazy skies during the day, locally reduced visibility, degraded air quality, but with potentially colorful sunrises and sunsets,” the weather service said.

Lower concentrations of dust are forecast to spread up the Plains states, while some is expected to spread eastward into the Southeast and the Mid-Atlantic, according to the weather service.  

The mass of extremely dry and dusty air known as the Saharan Air Layer forms over the Sahara Desert and moves across the North Atlantic every three to five days from late spring to early fall, peaking in late June to mid-August, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

It can occupy a roughly 2-mile thick layer in the atmosphere, the agency said.

More dust: A ‘Godzilla’ dust cloud from Sahara Desert is nearing US Gulf Coast

Saharan dust tracks as far west as the Caribbean Sea, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico each year, said.

One other benefit from the Saharan dust is that it tends to prevent tropical storms and hurricanes from developing: “Tropical storms need a lot of moist air and relatively calm upper level winds to form,” Aaron Treadway, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said. “The lack of moisture and increased winds are not conducive for tropical storm development.”

In fact, this outbreak of dust, along with unfavorable upper-level winds, will likely put a lid on any significant tropical development in the near-term, according to meteorologist Chris Dolce.

Contributing: The Associated Press; Kelly P. Franklin, the Austin-American Statesman

More: Saharan dust could bring fewer tropical storms, beautiful sunsets


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Reduced reopening

UNH reopening plan: Reduced dorm capacity, other changes

[Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included an inaccurate figure for how significantly the university plans to reduce its residence halls’ capacity.]

DURHAM — University of New Hampshire campuses will reopen to students starting Aug. 10, doing so with a number of changes and restrictions university officials say will ensure safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Precautionary changes include: reducing residence hall capacity by an estimated 20%, eliminating triple and quad rooms in the process; reserving two dorms for quarantine housing; mandatory facemasks; a stay-at-home policy for anyone who is ill; reducing dining hall capacity and new to-go meal options; a mixture of in-person and online courses, plus various course changes to comply with social distancing recommendations; remote learning approval processes for vulnerable students; and more.

The changes will also include new penalties for students who don’t comply with UNH’s safety guidelines, according to the information UNH President Jim Dean shared Monday in an email to students and on a university webpage titled “Roadmap to an On-Campus Experience.”

“We are preparing to welcome students back to our campuses in Durham, Manchester and Concord for a COVID-19-ready fall semester,” Dean wrote. “Informed by the latest science, public health guidance and ideas from our university community, UNH is developing a flexible, in-person fall 2020 experience designed to keep our community safe, ensure access and quality for our students, and move our community forward. Should health conditions change, we are prepared to pivot in support of the health and well-being of our community.”

Dean couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. UNH Provost Wayne Jones was reached, but not before deadline for this report.

The university’s reopening roadmap was developed by 13 teams of faculty, staff and students who used “key internal and external metrics from the federal and state levels” to guide their recommendations, according to a statement by Jones.

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The university’s roadmap states safety supplies, sanitation stations and testing will be available on campus and that the university will clean and disinfect classrooms, restrooms and “other high-touch surfaces” more frequently.

Contact tracing will be performed in collaboration with state health officials, according to the roadmap. It states UNH’s goal is to identify and isolate infected individuals within 24 hours of a positive test.

The roadmap indicates students will be allowed back into dorms during an expanded three-week move-in period that will start Aug. 10.

Classes will begin at UNH’s law school in Concord on Aug. 24 and at the Durham and Manchester campuses on Aug. 31. Pending faculty senate approval, the university has proposed canceling fall holidays and closing campus on Thanksgiving, after which students would complete the final 10 days of the semester and final exams remotely.

Dean said last week the university expects a decrease in freshmen enrollment this fall, and that enrollment is a significant part of why projections indicate UNH could face a deficit of up to $30 million in the coming fiscal year.

The university’s roadmap doesn’t state whether decreases in on-campus student population or other factors are playing a role in UNH’s ability to limit the occupancy of its dorms, nor how UNH will administer the spaces within its reduced-capacity dorms.

Prior to the pandemic, UNH only guaranteed housing to all first-year students.

The university’s webpage doesn’t indicate which two dorms will be reserved for quarantine housing.

In addition to the housing changes and a requirement everyone wear facemasks while in class, at work and in campus common areas, one of UNH’s biggest anticipated changes due to the pandemic includes the impact on courses.

The university will expand each day’s instructional hours to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., lengthening the day to allow for courses to be split into multiple sections or moved into larger rooms to comply with social distancing recommendations, according to UNH’s COVID-19 FAQ page.

The FAQs indicate some courses may also “limit the number of students present in person on a rotating basis” to reduce the number of students on campus and in one space at any given time.

It’s unclear how UNH will provide a mixture of in-person and online courses, and the FAQs indicate it won’t be possible with every course.

The FAQs also indicate remote course exceptions for vulnerable populations will be “Subject to approval,” though it doesn’t outline what criteria will be used to determine which students will be eligible.

The roadmap also indicates the university is “working to preserve the traditional campus experience to the greatest extent possible, with the necessary safety protocols and guidelines in place that protect students, faculty and staff.” It will do this, according to the roadmap, by requiring prescheduling for various campus activities and events that “will scale based on health and safety conditions.”

“The goal is to provide the highest quality educational and campus experiences while protecting the health and safety of our community,” Jones wrote in the letter posted to UNH’s website.

It’s unclear how UNH will enforce compliance with the various changes, beyond stating the university’s Student Rights, Rules and Responsibilities Handbook is being updated to reflect that “living and learning on campus is a right and a privilege that will be lost for students that don’t adhere to these guidelines.”

Molly Campbell, the president of the university’s lecturers union, said lecturers have concerns about the overall safety of some of the provisions and the responsibilities they will add for university employees.

However, she said they also “have empathy with the administration because they have to consider so many competing concerns.”

“UNH’s plan can’t be said to be flawless, but this is an extraordinary set of challenges,” Campbell wrote in a text. “UNH’s plan is aligned with, and even leading what other colleges nationally are developing for solutions, however all of these plans rely on the foundational assumption that the college environment can be made safe, which will require 100% commitment and participation by the entire community.”

Jim Farrell, a professor of rhetoric in the university’s communications department, said faculty members are also concerned about safety. He estimated returning students and staff to campus will result in 1,900-2,000 people in relatively close proximity to each other, which could be challenging in buildings with narrow corridors like Murkland Hall where personal space is often limited.

Like the lecturers, Farrell said faculty members also understand UNH is trying to put together a puzzle “knowing they don’t have all the pieces yet.”

“I don’t want to come off like I’m trying to be 100% critical of the administration,” said Farrell. “I think they have a terribly difficult job to do and an amazingly complex puzzle to figure out. I just don’t see a solution that makes most faculty, or a significant portion of the faculty, feel comfortable or safe going back into a classroom with potentially 20 or 30 vectors of disease.”

Farrell said he looks forward to receiving more detailed information in the coming weeks and that he hopes the university will authorize remote learning for any employees and students at risk or uncomfortable returning in person this fall.

“Again, they’re doing the best they can — I just don’t think it’s possible to do what they aspire to do,” he said. “You’re not going to get all of the students following the guidelines all the time. Why that matters is it only takes one mistake (to cause an outbreak).”

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Reduced significant

Significant reduced traffic in Beijing failed to relieve haze pollution during the COVID-19 lockdown: implications for haze mitigation. (arXiv:2006.07297v1 [])

[Submitted on 12 Jun 2020]

Authors: Zhaofeng Lv (1), Xiaotong Wang (1), Fanyuan Deng (1), Qi Ying (2), Alexander T. Archibald (3), Roderic L. Jones (3), Yan Ding (4), Ying Cheng (5), Mingliang Fu (4), Ying Liu (5), Hanyang Man (1), Zhigang Xue (4), Kebin He (1), Jiming Hao (1), Huan Liu (1) ((1) State Key Joint Laboratory of ESPC, State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Sources and Control of Air Pollution Complex, International Joint Laboratory on Low Carbon Clean Energy Innovation, School of the Environment, Tsinghua University, China, (2) Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Texas A&M University, USA, (3) Centre for Atmospheric Science, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, UK, (4) Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, (5) Beijing Transport Institute)

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Abstract: The COVID-19 outbreak greatly limited human activities and reduced primary
emissions particularly from urban on-road vehicles, but coincided with Beijing
experiencing pandemic haze, raising the public concerns of the validity and
effectiveness of the imposed traffic policies to improve the air pollution.
Here, we explored the relationship between local vehicle emissions and the
winter haze in Beijing before and during the COVID-19 lockdown period based on
an integrated analysis framework, which combines a real-time on-road emission
inventory, in-situ air quality observations and a localized chemical transport
modeling system. We found that traffic emissions decreased substantially
affected by the pandemic, with a higher reduction for NOx (75.9%, 125.3 Mg/day)
compared to VOCs (53.1%, 52.9 Mg/day). Unexpectedly, our results show that the
imbalanced emission abatement of NOx and VOCs from vehicles led to a
significant rise of the atmospheric oxidizing capacity in urban areas, but only
resulting in modest increases in secondary aerosols due to the inadequate
precursors. However, the enhanced oxidizing capacity in the surrounding regions
greatly increased the secondary particles with relatively abundant precursors,
which is mainly responsible for Beijing haze during the lockdown period. Our
results indicate that the winter haze in Beijing was insensitive to the local
vehicular emissions reduction due to the complicated nonlinear response of the
fine particle and air pollutant emissions. We suggest mitigation policies
should focus on accelerating VOC and NH3 emissions reduction and synchronously
controlling regional sources to release the benefits on local traffic emission

Submission history

From: Huan Liu [view email]
Fri, 12 Jun 2020 16: 25: 46 UTC (2,774 KB)

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obesity Reduced

Reduced obesity for weighted-vest wearers

Scientists from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have found a new method of reducing human body weight and fat mass using weighted vests. The new study indicates that there is something comparable to built-in bathroom scales that contributes to keeping our body weight and, by the same token, fat mass constant.

The researchers hypothesized that loading the vests with weights would result in a compensatory body-weight decrease. Sixty-nine people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30-35, the lowest obesity category, took part in the clinical study. Their instructions were to wear a weighted vest eight hours a day for three weeks, and otherwise live as usual.

All the study participants wore weighted vests but, by drawing of lots, they were assigned to one of two groups. The control group wore only light vests weighing 1 kg, while the treatment group wore heavy vests weighing some 11 kg. When the three weeks had passed, the experimental subjects who wore the heavier vests had lost 1.6 kg in weight, while those wearing the light vests had lost 0.3 kg.

“We think it’s very interesting that the treatment with the heavier weighted vests reduced fat mass while muscle mass simultaneously remained intact,” says Professor Claes Ohlsson of Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

“The effect on fat mass we found, from this short experiment, exceeded what’s usually observed after various forms of physical training. But we weren’t able to determine whether the reduction was in subcutaneous fat (just under the skin) or the dangerous visceral kind (belly fat) in the abdominal cavity that’s most strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” says Professor John-Olov Jansson of Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

In previous animal studies published in 2018, the scientists showed that there is an energy balance system that endeavors to keep body weight constant: the “gravitostat,” as they have dubbed it. In mice, this regulation takes place partly by influencing appetite. To work, the system must contain a kind of personal weighing machine. The researchers’ new clinical study shows that similar built-in scales exists in humans as well.

If people do a lot of sitting, what seems to happen is that the reading on our personal scales falls too low. This may explain why sitting is so clearly associated with obesity and ill-health. Weighted vests can raise the reading on the scales, resulting in weight loss.

Many questions about how the gravitostat works remain for the researchers to answer. Aspects they want to study include whether, in wearers of weighted vests, changed energy expenditure, appetite and mobility help them to lose weight. The scientists also want to see whether the weight reduction continues for the vest wearers over periods longer than three weeks, and whether the dangerous visceral fat is reduced by the treatment.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Gothenburg. Original written by Margareta Gustafsson Kubista. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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