Clean air means more storms!


Dusty, hot days continue for us and you’ve probably heard me say that the Saharan air layer inhibits tropical storms from forming: the dust is dry for one thing and also has a downward motion. Itchy eyes are with us for a bit as it looks like we’ll see more dust the better part of the week (literally, as dust does make for nice sunsets, like the one above over Bolivar last night).

More Dust is moving our way

Already this morning our air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups and I suspect that will continue all week. My weather app will alert you to this:

Yellow areas are Moderate Air Quality and Orange are Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups

All of this brings me to an interesting study a viewer asked me about.

That National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association recently published a report that the air across Europe and the United States is 50% cleaner the last couple of decades than in the 1970s and 1980s and that cleaner air is producing 33% more hurricanes!

If you consider the Saharan dust effect, it’s easy to understand: pollution particulates are generally too large for rain droplets to form on them, so you don’t get storms forming. In addition, aerosol pollution actually cools the air and the water so a less-warm environment exists for storms to get rolling. This lack of pollution is thanks to cleaner automobiles and cleaner industry.

As you may have guessed, increased pollution in the Pacific from India and China has produced the opposite effect: 50% more pollution since 1980 has meant 14% fewer storms in the Pacific.

If you’re around my age you remember Woodsy being introduced by the Department of Agriculture in 1971:

Poster, "Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute." PL*303680.03. (This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.)

Well, Woodsy’s message was heard loud and clear, and even though it has taken a lifetime, we now have cleaner air. And while the incidence of tropical weather may have increased because of it, we have to remember that some seven million people a year die across the world due to air pollution. So keeping the skies clear and clean is a much higher priority. You can have a look at the study right here.

Have a safe week with all this heat and remember: Don’t Mess with Texas!


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About the Authors:

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

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.