Saharan dust cloud travels across Atlantic, stops formation of tropical storms
Thursday, August 1, 2013, 11:17 -
NOAA's satellites have detected a plume of dust moving off the coast of Africa.
The dust continued to travel across the Atlantic Ocean in late July, driven by strong winds blowing westward from Western Africa.
According to NOAA, this particular plume, also called the Saharan Air Layer, plays an important role in lessening "cyclogenesis," or the formation of hurricanes.
"Many tropical systems begin as “waves” or areas of thunderstorms off the coast of Africa that then traverse the Atlantic Ocean toward North America," says Dayna Vettese, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "What we are seeing happen currently is that very dry air (dust and sand) is being forced off the coast of Africa into the Atlantic Ocean. This type of dry air inhibits the formation of tropical waves which leads to the reason why we have no suspect areas in the region."
Vettese adds that the U.S. National Hurricane Center will outline probabilities of tropical cyclone formations (ranging from low to high risk of formation), but currently there are no areas outlined in the eastern Atlantic Ocean due to the dry air coming off of Africa.
"The animation NOAA provided shows that one of their models is predicting this plume of dust and sand to traverse the Atlantic Basin over the next few days and as mentioned above, this will inhibit the formation of tropical cyclones," explains Vettese.