The dusty truth about our lack of hurricanes

The dusty truth about our lack of hurricanes

MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - The tropics have been quiet over the last several weeks. The reason why lies an ocean away.

The 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season got off to a quick start early on but, it has been quiet over the past few weeks. The reason for this is because of dust from the Saharan Desert in Africa.

Saharan dust gets blown into the atmosphere by easterly waves, you may also know it as large complexes of thunderstorms, that move westward across Africa. The dust can then reside in a dry layer of the atmosphere between 5,000-20,000 feet above the ground. That dust can then be blown deep into the Atlantic and on occasions, as far as the United States!

Saharan Dust Layer on 7/12/2016. Photo Credit: NASA

The dust can be a good thing for us along the coast as it inhibits the development of tropical systems in several ways.

Dust layer associated with the Saharan Air Layer northeast of Barbados in 2006.  Photo credit: Jason Dunion NOAA/HRD.

Saharan dust and dry air create sinking air around thunderstorms, which weakens storms and can prevent the development of new storms. The strong winds associated to the dust layer can tear apart tropical systems and create a hostile environment for new systems. It is not yet clear what effect the dust has on tropical cyclone intensity, although according to NOAA, there are some recent studies have suggested that it can actually impact the formation of clouds.