Saharan dust: Is it normal to see plumes this late?


(WFLA) — The tropics have remained quiet ahead of hurricane season and one of the reasons is Saharan dust plumes moving off the coast of Africa. Those plumes are also helping limit formation chances for the tropical wave being monitored.

“The National Hurricane Center is really limiting this chance of development because that Saharan dust is keeping it at bay — it’s not allowing it to organize,” said meteorologist Amanda Holly, of WFLA in Tampa. “So we’re not worried about that for now.”

The dry dust that originates from the Sahara Desert helps keep the tropics quiet because tropical systems need moisture to form and strengthen. The winds that push the dust across the Atlantic also help limit organization of tropical systems.

Saharan dust plumes are typically seen in May, June and into July. An uptick in tropical activity is usually seen after — as the statistical peak of hurricane season on Sept. 10 approaches.

But this year, Saharan dust is still blowing into August.

“The Saharan dust has been very thick for us for this time of the year. This looks more like a June Saharan dust plume than an August Saharan dust plume,” said WFLA Meteorologist Rebecca Barry.

So is it uncommon to see plumes this late in the season and is it something we should expect every year?

Barry says so much Saharan dust in the Atlantic right now is unusual, but not impossible.

“It’s certainly late in the season compared to our normal patterns,” she said. “I would not expect this to be considered standard moving forward, but more likely an anomaly.”

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