Breakdown: Why Saharan dust can decrease hurricane development

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 9:54 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Saharan dust travels across the Atlantic and makes it’s way into the US annually. The winds over Africa sweep up millions of tons of dust and sand and it across the Atlantic due to the trade winds and African waves which push westward into the tropical Atlantic Ocean. This dust can sometimes keep storm development low.

The dust is mixed in with very dry air and usually contains strong winds, neither of which is good for tropical development. The areas are of dust are also typically warmer and can lead to sinking air and more stabilized air.

The plumes typically start in mid-June and run through mid-August, with height of the dust plumes in the middle. According to NOAA, the areas of dust subside by the middle of August. This lack of dust in late August means an increase in tropical activity in late August and September.

The Saharan Air Layer is as high as 5,000 to 20,000 feet in the atmosphere and is also associated with strong bursts of wind. Scientist can track the dust on satellite as it moves across the Atlantic.

According to scientist if the dust gets too concentrated in one location it can cause poor air quality for those who suffer from allergies. However it can also bring about gorgeous sunsets due to more particles scattering in the atmosphere.

Saharan dust can decrease tropical development, but research is ongoing on this topic.

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