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Hurricane season “paused” by Saharan dust from Africa

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Posted: Friday, June 19, 2020. 5:22 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: After a frenetic start to what is expected to be an above-average Atlantic hurricane season, CNN is reporting a potential slow-down over the next week.

Any significant tropical development is unlikely over the next week, it says, due to a significant area of Saharan Dust seen in satellite imagery blowing off the west coast of Africa and traveling across the Atlantic into the Gulf of Mexico by this time next week.

CNN meteorologist Haley Brink explains: “Large plumes of Saharan Dust routinely track into the Atlantic Ocean from late spring into early fall…Every so often, when the dust plume is large enough and trade winds set up just right, the dust can travel thousands of miles across the Atlantic and into the U.S.”

Though the dust is a visible indication there will be little to no tropical development, it isn’t the main reason why a tropical system will not form when it is present.

“The dust is the visible part of the reduced tropical development potential area,” explains CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. “It is the dry air and additional vertical wind shear along with the dust that are the driving factors in limiting tropical storm development.”

Vertical wind shear is the change of wind speed and direction with height. For a hurricane to form, it needs little to no wind shear and a very moist atmosphere.

So, for the next week, don’t expect the Atlantic to see it’s fourth named storm. Instead, by this time next week, people living and visiting the Caribbean and Gulf Coast beaches will be in for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets as the dust particles in the atmosphere scatter the sunlight, according to Brink.

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