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UPDATED: Sahara sandstorm layer of dust drops across England and UK

by Chris Johnson. Published Thu 28 Jun 2012 10:36, last updated: 28/06/12
Deposits of Sahara sandstorm dust in Liverpool
Deposits of Sahara sandstorm dust in Liverpool

A "dirty rain" storm - thought to have been carried-up from the Sahara - dumped a layer of dust all over many parts of England - including the Liverpool City Region - overnight.

The phenomenon appeared to have covered a wide area with reports coming in from towns and cities all over the North West, South West and the Midlands.

Motorists awoke to find that their cars covered in the coating of grimy orange dust in blotches that showed it had been deposited by drops of rain.

The phenomenon is known to occur occasionally - the last known previous reports being in the Midlands in 2003 - but the current incident was being described as "a significant event".

The Met Office confirmed that it had received reports of the dirty rain phenomenon and said staff were compiling a report about the extent of the dust deposits.

The dust storm was delivering a bonus to car washes which were busy with drivers wanting to get their motors clean.

But caused a headache for car sales lots where staff were faced with a clean-up operation.

Paul Smith, of Wirral Small Cars, in Heswall, said: "I could hardly believe my eyes when I arrived at the office and saw all the cars covered in.

"At first I thought someone had been going round shaking dust over the cars and then dousing them with water.

"But then I realised that it must be something to do with the weather and someone said it was probably sand from the Sahara Desert.

"I've never seen anything like it!"

On 23rd June last week the storm swept up a large amount of sand and dust from the western Sahara up into the atmosphere.

It spread westwards over the Atlantic before getting caught up in southerly winds, dragging it north over Spain before it arrived over the UK.

In the atmosphere over British soil the sand and dust mixed up in the warm and humid air which has brought thunder storms and heavy rain to the country.

The dust can get caught up in the rain droplets in clouds which then fall to the ground and when the water evaporates a thin layer of dust is left on surfaces - like cars.

Many people noticed this in the South West of the UK yesterday with the dust then spreading north and east overnight to bring it to a much wider area.

Areas in Liverpool, Manchester, London, Reading and Wirral have all been affected.

Paul Hutcheon, Deputy Chief Forecaster at the Met Office, said: "You get these big dust storms in the western Sahara and the southerly winds to bring that dust here.

"This event was a very well-marked example."

Driver Ken Green, 43, from Bolton, Manchester, said: "At first I thought it was just my car. I washed the windscreen because it was covered in dust.

"I thought perhaps it was grime from a building site and then I noticed as I drove down the road that every car for miles and miles was covered in it.

"When you add it up there must be of tons of the stuff that has been deposited all over the country."

A spokesperson from the National Oceonography Centre in Southampton said: "Saharan sand is red or a dirty colour because it contains a lot of iron which is a mirconutrient.

"When dust storms like the one that has covered areas of Britain happen they really benefit growth in the waters off the coast by giving rise to plankton blooms.

"The sand acts like fertiliser on the ocean and allows fish and other sea creatures in the northern hemisphere to feed and reproduce.

"Further out to sea can be like a desert for sea life because they don't have the iron micro-nutrient - so in terms of helping sustain ocean life the sand storm is great."


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"it is here in newport and nearly all the cars has sand here" abdul jabbar, newport around 1 year, 3 months ago

"I knew the sand goes west to Florida and Amazon.Never thought N to UK. Here we got ash from Mt. St. Helens (1980)" Rob , Alberta, Canada around 2 years, 8 months ago

"Thought there was something like that in the air, washed and waxed my car though and watching others waiting for a bank holiday to do it:))" Rd, Northolt around 3 years, 1 month ago

"How funny my husband thought i was cracking up and using the Car wash as my Sanctuary (like a clean car) thank goodness he now knows lol," Clare Wilson, wirral, upton around 3 years, 1 month ago

"We got it in Huddersfield as well! I thought it was the neighbours " Billy, Huddersfield around 3 years, 1 month ago

"Definetly from the airbourne Chemtrail chemicals and NOT sahara. Someone do a test and you will find barium and aluminium, from chemtrails" Neo, The Matrix around 3 years, 1 month ago

"It got us too in the Channel Islands Pretty much every car you saw was covered" Ben, Guernsey around 3 years, 1 month ago

"We have it hear, near Beaminster. Might bottle it up and put it on E-bay "Sahara Sand"" Rob, Dorset, UK around 3 years, 1 month ago

"we had it here in Knebworth" victoria croft, Knebworth, Hertfordshire around 3 years, 1 month ago

"And in Basingstoke too..." Dave, Basingstoke around 3 years, 1 month ago

"We have the same here." Vitaly, Stevenage, Hertfordshire around 3 years, 1 month ago

"We had it here in Cardiff too" Paul, Cardiff around 3 years, 1 month ago

"We've got some on cars here in East Anglia too." Shaun, Essex around 3 years, 1 month ago

"we went to our car this morning and noticed the dust too,but i guessed what it was,i remembered it happened a few years ago" MRS A HANSFORD, beaminster,dorset around 3 years, 1 month ago

"we also have dust and it isnt coming from the local cement works." tracie mitchell, Rutland around 3 years, 1 month ago

"We have the sand here as well" Alan guest, Chelmsford around 3 years, 1 month ago

"This is not restricted to the North of England, we're seeing the issue in South London too." Stuart Hall, London around 3 years, 1 month ago

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