Sand blown in from the Sahara has covered snow in resorts across the Alps, turning ski pistes orange and yellow in France and Switzerland. Jaw-dropping pictures show mountains in Piau-Engaly ski resort, in southwestern France, coated in bright orange sand at the height of the region’s ski season.
Dust was also reported covering parts of the Swiss Alps and turning skies orange across Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom as sand from the Sahara was carried towards Europe by Storm Celia.
An orange glow was first reported in areas of southern Spain on Monday morning, with the sky above Madrid and Murcia glowing as dust filled the air.
Eerie photographs showed the streets of Spain’s capital city illuminated in orange as the sandstorm brought Saharan dust from Africa to Europe.
Spanish officials have issued extremely poor air quality ratings from Madrid and other areas of the country and told people to stay inside.
Many people woke up to find a layer of red dust on cars, buildings and streets in the Spanish capital on Tuesday.
Emergency authorities advised people to wear face masks outside and avoid outdoor exercise.
Spain’s weather service described the dust storm from the Sahara as “extraordinary and very intense”. It added that it was unclear if it was the worst episode of its kind on record.
The Saharan dust also affected air quality in Spain’s Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean.
Satellite images also showed a thick plume of dust over France as reports circulated of poor visibility and air quality in some areas.
Pictures also circulated on social media of orange skies about Switzerland’s cities including Zurich on Tuesday.
The Met Office warned that the dust cloud would hit the UK on Wednesday.
Forecasters said the impact was unlikely to be significant but that dust would potentially be visible at sunset.
Richard Miles from the Met Office said: “Storm Celia over Spain is indeed pulling a dust cloud up from the Sahara, which could potentially reach as far as the south of the UK.
“However, we don’t expect significant impacts – the most likely would be on the cloudscapes at sunset but, as conditions are likely to be generally overcast and wet for much of the day, this is unlikely to amount to much. There are no air-quality warnings.
“People in the south might find a bit of dust left on their cars as the rain washes it out of the skies today.”
However, there have been warnings that the dust could cause breathing difficulties for people with asthma.
Dr Andy Whittamore from Asthma UK told the Mirror: “Toxic air can leave people struggling for breath and can cause wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and even a life-threatening asthma attack.
“Saharan dust could pose a serious risk to the 5.4 million people in the UK with asthma.
“Dust and other types of air pollution are a well-known trigger for people with asthma.
“People with asthma must make sure they carry their reliever inhaler (usually blue) with them at all times in case their symptoms worsen.
“We also advise people with asthma to continue to manage their condition with their preventer inhaler (usually brown) as this will help to reduce the inflammation in their airways and make them less likely to react to asthma triggers.”