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Picture perfect: Saharan dust cloud to touch off stellar Florida sunrises, sunsets

The tiny particles of dust will help to reflect the already rays of light from the sun.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida's sunrises and sunsets already are some of the best in the world. They'll be even better this week as a massive plume of Saharan dust settles across the region.

It's an annual phenomenon: winds over Africa pick up millions of tons of dust and blow them across the Atlantic Ocean. That dust not only helps to fertilize the water and soils of the Americas, according to NASA, but there are also a couple of other atmospheric changes.

One of those is a big benefit during hurricane season. The Saharan dust can act to suppress tropical storm development. A dust storm is very dry and contains a very strong surge of air that can help to rip apart a developing storm system, NASA researchers wrote.

The other plus for us? Picturesque sunrises and sunsets.

Our view of the sun already is spectacular in the morning and at nighttime. At these times, the sun is low on the horizon. This means its light has to travel through more of Earth's atmosphere, which gets us those great-looking pictures.

Enter the Saharan dust.

Those tiny particles of dust not only act to block some sunlight, but they also reflect it. That additional bit of scattering will result in more stunning hues of reds, oranges, pinks, yellows -- all of it.

The latest satellite imagery shows the Saharan dust plume spread out across the Atlantic and into the Caribbean. It's forecast to reach much of Florida by midweek or so.

Keep those cameras handy and be sure to share your best pictures with us on the 10 Tampa Bay app!

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