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article imageThe Sahara Desert is a hurricane-killer this season

By Karen Graham     Aug 10, 2018 in Science
The National Hurricane Center has been watching two systems in the Atlantic Ocean, one of which has a 25 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression in the next 48 hours. The second area of disturbance is given a 20 percent chance.
We really are in the middle of the hurricane season, even though we have had only four named storms so far. As a matter of fact, most people probably missed the announcement of Debbie, the fourth storm of the season that formed last week.
Debbie has been confined to the North Atlantic and has not done much of anything except disturbing the fish and shipping lanes. On the other hand, the Eastern Pacific has been very active this year. During one period last week, there were four active storms churning around at one time. The latest one, Hurricane Hector came within 100 miles of Hawaii.
Why is the Atlantic Basin so quiet?
Even if you have not been wondering why things are so quiet in the Atlantic, you really do need to know why that is. Simply put - It is because of El Nino. In July, an El Niño watch was issued in the latest outlook from NOAA, indicating an increasing chance for El Niño conditions to develop later this year.
So right now, there is a 70 percent chance of El Nino development, and with the waters of the Equatorial Western Pacific Ocean warming up, this helps to fuel more storms in the Pacific. Usually, under El Niño conditions, the Atlantic Basin is quieter.
There is another reason why the Atlantic Basin has been so quiet this year. We can put the blame on massive dust storms in the Sahara Desert. Since about the beginning of July this year, the Southern United States and most of Texas has been plagued with dust.
On March 8  2008  the ESA s Envisat satellite captured the sand and dust from the Sahara Desert blow...
On March 8, 2008, the ESA's Envisat satellite captured the sand and dust from the Sahara Desert blowing across the Atlantic Ocean along the coasts of Mauritania (top), Senegal (middle) and Guinea Bissau (bottom). The cloud-covered Cape Verde islands are visible off the coast of Senegal.
European Space Agency
Amazingly, the amount of sand and other mineral particles that are swept up in air currents and pushed over the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and other nearby regions is a staggering 2 to 9 trillion pounds worldwide. And while the dust will make people cough, it is also a storm-killer.
As the dust-laden air moves, it creates a temperature inversion which in turn tends to prevent cloud—and eventually—storm formation. It means fewer storms and even hurricanes are less likely to strike when the dust is present.
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NCEP/NOAA
But - Just a reminder!
While we probably won't have quite as many hurricanes to worry about this year, just remember, it only takes one to turn our lives upside -down. The National Hurricane Center has put out a revised forecast for the number of tropical cyclones to expect this season, and the number of named storms has dropped from 10-16 down to 9-14.
And here is some very good news - As far as “Major Hurricanes” – those of category 3 strength or higher – expect 0-2 (down from 1-4)
More about Hurricane, Atlantic, sahara wind storms, wind shear, cooler waters