Happy Hurricane Dust (or, Why the Sahara Desert Could Be Your Best Friend)

July 20, 2017
Tropical Storm Dorian
NOAA

Rate this Post: 

Average: 4.2 (5 votes)

The Atlantic Hurricane Season has been quiet. 

Hurricane experts saw how hot the Atlantic Ocean was and predicted a busy season.

So far, they have been wrong.

It is time to say “Thank You!”, to the Sahara Desert and its dust.

Saharan dust storms are hurricane killers!

Click to enlarge picture of a hurricane killer. Dust from the Sahara Desert pours across the Atlantic. Source: NOAA

Basically, creating a hurricane is a simple equation:

   1 thunderstorm

+ heat (from warm ocean waters)

+ favorable high altitude winds (The winds must be blowing correctly or they will sheer off the top of the storm.)

__________________________________________________________________________________

   A hurricane

Click to enlarge picture of Tropical Storm Dorian which was sucked dry by Saharan dust on July 27. Source: NOAA

Sahara dust storms mess with the high altitude winds. The giant desert generates strong storms that can tower two to three miles high. Strong trade winds can carry floating dust for thousands of miles. The red dust soaks up moisture and finally rains out as far away as Europe, Brazil, the Caribbean Islands and Florida. (Floridians – if you see a layer of red dust at the bottom of a bucket after a rain – that’s probably from the Sahara).

These dusty rains are spectacular – in parts of Southern Europe they are so red that they are called blood rains. It carries valuable iron and nutrients to the Brazilian jungles. Cuba has discovered it carries bacteria and causes pediatric asthma. Here in the US, it can give our Gulf States colorful sunsets.

When it is absorbing the moisture, it dries out the high ocean air masses. Any Atlantic storm trying to develop into a hurricane dries up whenever it reaches the high-flying desert air. We have already watched Tropical Storm Dorian sucked dry before it could hit Florida.

Source: Browning Newsletter, © Evelyn Browning Garriss

The dry airs and winds have forced NOAA to cut down their forecasts for this year’s hurricane season. When they saw how hot the Atlantic was, they had predicted a crazy season. Now they just expect it to be busier than normal.

If you live on the Gulf Coast or near a beach in the East, this is good news. You can thank the Sahara Desert and its sparkling red dust.

 

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.