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Dublin: 17 °C Saturday 20 July, 2019
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Lots of people woke up to find their car covered in sand this morning

What caused the mystery sand?

Updated 7.44pm

AS IF LOSING an hour in bed wasn’t enough, some people across Ireland woke up to an unwelcome surprise.

Many cars, particularly in the eastern part of the country, were covered in a fine, reddish dust overnight – leaving some owners confused as to what happened to their cars while they were sleeping.

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(@kgtraynor/Twitter)

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(@laurenm__x/Twitter)

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(@MarkKyle47/Twitter)

People on Twitter reported the sand in parts of Dublin, Kildare and Meath, with western parts of England and Wales also affected.

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(Pic: Barbara Scully/Twitter  - Used with permission)

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(Pic: Ciaran O’Rourke/Twitter – used with permission)

So what caused it? A covert action by a secret army of car-washers looking for business? Russell Crowe bringing some Biblical weather with him during his brief visit to Ireland yesterday?

The answer is slightly more prosaic.

Last night saw strong winds over North Africa, which led to sand being displaced and following a path up through parts of Europe, including the east coast of Ireland.

The Sahara is one of the largest deserts in the world – for scale, it’s almost as big as China or the United States – so strong winds in the area mean that there’s a lot of sand that can be picked up and moved.

This map shows the path of dust up through parts of Spain before it hit Ireland.

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(Map via Forecast.uoa.gr)

This isn’t the first time it has happened. Tropical air from North Africa often follows a wind path towards Ireland, but will often have the dust rained out by the time it actually reaches us, so it is somewhat unusual for the sand to actually survive long enough to make it to Ireland.

So there you have it. Expect a queue at the car washes today…

Originally published 12.46pm

Read: There was a typically Irish reaction to the Wexford earthquake >

Read: Why does Google’s homepage say today is the first day of spring? >

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