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Sahara dust turns Athens orange

April 23, 2024

(CNN) — A yellow-orange haze of dust from the Sahara desert has blanketed parts of Greece, prompting authorities to issue health warnings and creating spectacular dreamlike scenes.

The Greek Meteorological Service said weather conditions on Tuesday had favoured the movement of dust from Africa and this was showing up in “increased concentrations in the atmosphere,” particularly in the south of the country.

However, the dust would gradually begin to decrease on Wednesday morning, the service predicted, and from midday onwards it would be “limited to the east.”

Videos and images shared online showed people in Athens observing the yellow-orange fog from the hills near the Greek capital.

Others took evening walks in the city and shared the bright orange scenes on social media. One user posted that meteorologists have said the bright orange dust has made Athens look like “a colony of Mars.”

The eastern Mediterranean country of Cyprus has also been affected by the dust.

A low-pressure system over northern Africa swept dust over Cyprus several times in mid-April, “darkening skies and reducing air quality,” NASA said Tuesday.

An image from NASA’s Terra satellite showed “a shroud of tan” over Cyprus on April 22. Dust was expected to continue to cross the Mediterranean, impacting both Cyprus and Greece over the next several days, NASA said.

Clouds of dust moving from northern Africa to Greece and other regions is a phenomenon that occurs occasionally, bringing limited visibility and prompting warnings of breathing risks.

Dust from the Saharan desert covers Athens in an orange haze on April 23. (Photo: Costas Baltas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

‘Freak’ weather hits Finland

People cross a snow-covered railway in Helsinki, Finland, on April 23, as an unusual weather system brought trams in the city to a halt. (Alessandro Rampazzo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

The strange optics in southern Europe came as an unusually large snowfall in the north of the continent for this time of year brought public transport to a standstill across the south of Finland, public broadcaster YLE reported.

“Freak April weather” brought more than 20 centimetres (7.9 inches) of snow to some areas, stranding trams and delaying bus and metro services in the Finnish capital and causing flight cancellations and delays at Helsinki Airport, YLE reported Tuesday.

Meanwhile, police in the southwest of the country reported around a dozen road traffic accidents – although no serious injuries – and maintenance workers struggled to clear the snow from power lines.

While snowfall is not uncommon in Finland’s winter months, a press officer for Helsinki’s public transport operator HSL, Johannes Laitila, told YLE such weather was “unusual” for late April and urged travellers to allow more time for journeys.

Photos showed Helsinki residents walking through thick snow and ice, carrying umbrellas under heavy snowfall, and tall clusters of snow piled up on sidewalks, cars and scooters.

Finland’s airport operator Finavia said that overnight freezing rain “which turns to ice almost immediately when it hits the ground” had fallen at Helsinki Airport.

“As a result, runway de-icing and aircraft wing de-icing must be done much more than usual for the time of year,” Finavia added.

HSL said on its website that all the city’s tram services had been cancelled earlier on Tuesday but were gradually resuming from the afternoon.

Maintenance workers were clearing snow from tram tracks but struggling to remove ice from some overhead power lines because the equipment used to apply glycol – an antifreeze chemical which is usually used for this purpose during the winter – had been taken into storage for the summer.

“Unfortunately the severity of the weather surprised us,” said head of the city’s transport organization’s maintenance unit Antti Vigelius in a press statement, according to YLE.


By Eve Brennan, Sugam Pokharel, Radina Gigova and Chris Liakos, CNN

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