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From desert dust to hurricanes? NASA mission looks into the link


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Saturday, June 15, 2013, 10:34 -

If there's anything everybody knows about Africa's Sahara desert, it's this: It's enormous, its dry and it's really, really dusty.

The sheer size of the thing has scientists wondering what kind of effect all that desert dust has on hurricane formation when its blown over the Atlantic Ocean.

Now NASA is actually launching a mission to find that out.

Take a look at this video from NASA:

It's a computer simulation of atmospheric particles from a variety of land-based sources. The swirling red is, of course, supposed to represent desert dust, and if you watch long enough, you can see it coalesce around little white dots, representing hurricanes.

Scientists think the all that dust in the air does have an effect on cyclone formation, but opinion is divided over whether it suppresses hurricanes or actually encourages then.

Solving that riddle would be a great tool in predicting hurricanes, like last year's devastating Hurricane Sandy:

NASA's Global Hawk drone gathered plenty of information about Tropical Storm Nadine last year, now the space agency's Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel (HS3) mission is focussing on the issue as part of its current five-year mission.

Using drones to monitor weather is increasingly more common.

For more of our world's severe weather, check out our video gallery.

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