Are predictions of an active hurricane season in danger?

We haven’t seen a single Atlantic hurricane yet this season. This is a fact. It isn’t one that should cause a terrible amount of panic for those who predicted an active hurricane season this year, however. What should cause significant concern is the impending outbreak of African Dust in the Tropical Atlantic which should effectively inhibit the development of any hurricanes or well organized tropical systems coming off the African coast in the next week.  That will bring us into the middle of September without a single hurricane, barring a Western Atlantic or Gulf development which also seems highly unlikely during that time frame.

Forecast models are indicating another massive outbreak of African dust traveling across the tropical Atlantic this week.

Forecast models are indicating another massive outbreak of African dust traveling across the tropical Atlantic this week. Image courtesy weatherbell.

Why exactly is this African dust important? The dust is more commonly known as SAL (Saharan Air Layer), and outbreaks often occur with changing atmospheric patterns in Africa.  The SAL is known for its extremely dry air and dust content, which more often than not inhibits the development of organized thunderstorms/convection, leading to a complete lack of tropical cyclones.

Larger concentrations of dust in the air can also act as a “blanket” which restricts the sun from reaching the surface. The dust can cool temperatures of the surface, and even the sea by up to 0.5 to 1 degree cooler than average. Although some studies point to dust contributing to additional cloud development, the dry air layer often negates this development.

With the massive dust storm forecast in the Tropical Atlantic over the next few days, it seems that an above average Atlantic hurricane season is becoming less and less likely. It is hard to rule anything out in the world of meteorology nowadays, but if an above average 2013 Atlantic hurricane occurs, it will certainly be a late bloomer.

 

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