Large Sahara Desert dust plume could briefly slow hurricane activity
A week filled with tropical systems activity Fred, Grace and Henri could soon be followed by a calm tropical Atlantic.
You can thank a dust plume from the Saharan desert for this.
The National Weather Service confirmed Thursday that a larger-than-usual dust plume had already moved off the east coast of Africa and was heading west toward Florida. Once the dust hits the Sunshine State, which is expected to occur around Wednesday of next week, experts predict it will reduce not only the chance of rain, but also photographic sunsets featuring more hues of red and gray. orange in the sky.
However, spectacular sunsets shouldn’t be the main reason Floridians are excited – the plume will also prevent the formation and strengthening of tropical systems as it passes through the Atlantic Ocean.
How is it ? Rick Davis, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Ruskin office, said dust steals moisture from the air from potential storms. Moisture is what fuels storms, he said, which means dust could prevent future hurricanes from forming.
Dust has an official name given to it by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which calls it “Saharan air layer” – or simply “SAL”. It is a common phenomenon that lifts desert dust particles up to 5,000 to 20,000 feet above the ground before moving them westward over the Atlantic.
SAL mainly occurs in the first half of the hurricane season, which runs from June to November, and its size typically decreases in mid-August. However, the Ruskin Office of the National Weather Service said Thursday the last bloom was “a good size” for this time of year.
Some in Tampa Bay may remember the brief respite the Saharan air layer brought last June and July. It was then that a historic Saharan phenomenon created a 24-day lull of tropical tranquility in the Atlantic Ocean amid the most active hurricane season in recorded history. Only one storm formed from June 10 to July 4, but it never approached land, disappearing into the North Atlantic.
The Saharan air layer epidemic was the “dustiest” on record, Weather Channel meteorologist Carl Parker said. It covered an area larger than the 48 contiguous states and covered 5,000 miles from Africa to the southwestern states. Although smaller in August, the weather service said the latest plume could give similar results, just for a shorter period.
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