NASA said that a Sahara dust storm will protect the United States from hurricanes forming in the Atlantic in early August.
As storm watchers know, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. However, we frequently get a break in early August thanks to seasonal dust storms in Africa’s Sahara desert.
The dust in the atmosphere disrupts the conditions that allow a hurricane to form.
At the end of July, NOAA revealed that their satellites showed the powerful plume of dust called the Saharan Air Layer had arrived right on time. You can watch the video to see their simulation of how the dust was predicted to move.
The satellite still photo from NASA down below also shows the large Sahara dust storm. As you can see, it covers a significant region of the eastern Atlantic area offshore western Africa.
That’s good news for people in the Atlantic hurricane danger zone. It means that hurricanes probably can’t form in early August.
Dr. Jeff Masters’ blog at Weather Underground carried a detailed explanation of why the dust stops tropical cyclones from forming.
The short version is that dust can shield some sunlight from the ocean, keeping the water from heating up as much. Cooler seas mean weaker storms, and weaker storms may not reach tropical cyclone intensity.
Also, the Saharan Air Layer in particular may stop thunderstorms from forming. That too removes a source of fuel from potential hurricanes.
NASA revealed earlier this summer that their 2013 HS3 Hurricane Mission will perform an indepth study of the Sahara dust. Most people do believe the dust suppresses hurricanes, but the study should confirm that impression — and reveal how it works.
However, don’t let the temporary lull catch you napping. Maybe it’s a good time to check your supplies.
The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be very active. NASA’s Sahara dust will give us a break but it won’t last forever.
[Sahara dust image NASA]