Saharan dust cloud hits UK before ‘hottest day of the year’

Temperatures set to reach up to 18°C in some areas of the UK on Sunday

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Saharan dust moving across Europe has hit the UK, turning the skies orange and red over southern parts of the country, forecasters have said.

It comes before what is expected to be the hottest day of the year so far on Saturday, with temperatures set to reach up to 18°C in some areas.

The dust cloud, which is about 2 kilometres above ground level, hit Sussex, Kent and London on Wednesday afternoon.

The overall impact is “unlikely” to be significant but people in affected areas will be able to see a “red or orange tinge” to the sky, forecasters said.

Met Office meteorologist Dan Stroud explained the colours were caused by Rayleigh scattering from additional particles in the air.

“The dust in the atmosphere causes the light to be more refracted, so you get the dominance of the red and orange tinges of the spectrum,” he said.

It comes as the weather event — called Storm Celia in other countries — sweeps across Europe from the Sahara, blanketing parts of southern Spain and France.

Mr Stroud said the dust is likely to be washed out of the air by an area of cloud and rain pushing eastward across the West Country on Wednesday evening.

But high pressure building behind the wet weather over the course of the weekend is likely to see southern areas of England treated to a warm spring Saturday.

“We are likely to see some very pleasant spring sunshine, especially for the London and the south-east area, during the course of the Saturday,” Mr Stroud said.

“We’re looking at temperatures of up to 16°C, 17°C and perhaps even a rounded 18°C could be possible.”

The Met Office said the warmest temperature it had recorded so far in 2022 was 17.2°C in Pershore, Worcestershire, meaning Saturday could become the warmest day of the year yet.

Rain in England will begin to clear later on Wednesday as many regions turn cold, with patchy frost and some rural mist, the Met Office has said.

Thursday is expected to be sunnier for most of England and Wales, with some wind and showers in the south-east.

Showers, frost and fog are likely to continue hitting some parts of the UK up until Friday.

Updated: March 16, 2022, 11:40 PM