Dust can bust a hurricane forecast

courtesy NOAA

The above NOAA pic of the Atlantic Ocean skies full of Saharan dust is from 2006 and you can imagine that any tropical showers and storms would have a zero percent chance of forming in that kind of atmosphere. Those dusty skies are dry for one thing and particulates are falling downward toward Earth, suppressing any upward motion required to get tropical storms to build.

This is a May to November phenomenon--180 million tons of Saharan dust move across the Atlantic every year thanks to storms south of the desert lifting the dust and blowing it out to sea:

You can see the enhanced storm across the continent which move from east to west

The dust can blow north into Europe and west to the Caribbean, Gulf and South America. While that dust can get all the way to Texas and affect your sinuses, the iron-rich particles also make it to the Amazon Rain Forest supplying plant and forest nutrients like phosphorus. Additionally, the dust inhibits tropical storm growth! We’ve been talking about the American model spinning up a huge gulf storm just in time for Memorial Day Weekend (something I and every meteorologist I know has strongly doubted)---well, here is this morning’s prediction for Friday, May 27th:

No tropical activity showing up anytime soon. Courtesy tropicaltidbits.com

Gone. No storm in the offing, although the model does try for another small spin-up June 3rd south of Cuba, so we’ll see. Here is the current dust situation heading to the Gulf this weekend--I’ve circled the dusty skies that you can see in the faint brown color:

courtesy NOAA

Below is my graphical presentation of the dust today followed by its arrival into the Caribbean and Gulf this weekend:

Saharan Dust TODAY
Saharan Dust arrives this weekend

I think the American model finally factored in the dust and gave up on any immediate tropical development.

All in all the dust does more good than harm for most of us but the amount of the dust is threatened in the decades ahead. Global Warming, you would think, could cause more storms and more dust, but scientists predict the opposite--a warmer ocean would weaken the easterly winds which transport the dust. In addition, rainfall patterns could change over Africa with more rain, less dust! You can read more about the Saharan Dust and the threat to it right here.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to watch any tropical potential. The American model might try to reinvigorate some semblance of a storm for next week although, for now, the odds are very much against that actually happening!

Frank

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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.