Suffering Sinkor under a Saharan Sky.
The New Year in Monrovia is usually one of this city's most pleasant periods: for about four to six weeks, from early January to mid-February, the pepper coast experiences "the mid-Dries," when the humidity drops, the breeze picks up, and the air is neither thick with moisture nor bludgeoning with the blasting force of the sun.
This period coincides with the appearance of the Harmattan, a high-level weather pattern that brings Saharan sand south to the coast, from Nigeria to Cape Verde, and often cloaks coastal cities from Accra to Conkary in a low-visibility haze.
North America hardly has any named winds, so part of the romance of many ex-patriate West Africans' experience is constantly bemoan the Harmattan (whether their pronunciation is more Manhattan or closer to Benneton is apparently a matter of choice), even when it is bringing welcome relief from the scorching sun of the dry season rather than the noxious choke which cause such fear for the northern Sahara's sandy onslaughts of similar appellation.
The Harmattan Horizon: the ocean's edge disappears.
I am no meteorologist, so I'm in no position to describe these phenomena nor link them together, but while this year's mid-dry period has been welcomely temperate, the dust storms have been remarkably overbearing.
Learn 2 Speak Liberian:
Fog, Haze, Dust Storm = "Dew"
Liberians seem to limit their naming and observing of this phenomenon to their typically tangential word-usage: repurposing the word "dew" to apply to a high-altitude dust storm, which may in fact contain moisture but is more substantially sand than water. It is true that the low-level cover does look foggy: one morning this month the Executive Mansion was hidden behind a shiny ground cloud, unseeable from the street.
Locals also don't respond kindly to the drop in temperature: winter coats, caps and hoods are donned; when in other seasons it is mercilessly stuffy inside their ventless homes and bedrooms, Monrovians complain of suffering from "colds" and other illnesses, shivering as the weather approximates an Arizona evening for a few days.
Congo Town cloaked in haze.
This year, the dust storms have been the talk of the town, Roberts International Airport was completely shut down (flights in Ghana and elsewhere were also cancelled). Reportedly, some Delta flights nearly reached Liberian airspace before turning around to return to Accra. While the outside air temperature never dropped below 70F, The New Dawn newspaper screeched of "thick dew and severe cold" causing chaos at the country's principal international gateway (emphasis added):
Meanwhile, in town, trees, cars and buildings were coated in a fine dust; the mid-dries made the mid-rises of Central Monrovia became mere outlines in the haze. The normally-overpowering sun became only a single low-watt bulb covered in cobwebs. While this might describe a stifling, suffering experience, the air stirred with a small breeze and the thermometers dropped enough to give the air-conditioners a much-needed break, and window-screens checked to be left open in the evenings.