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The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image of dust sweeping off the coast of Western Sahara and Morocco on August 7, 2015. This is just one of several outbreaks of Saharan dust that have occurred over the Atlantic this summer.
While several factors influence hurricane formation, some research suggests that plumes of dry Saharan dust may help suppress storms over the Atlantic Ocean. In a recent update to its hurricane outlook for the Atlantic Basin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said a below-normal season appeared even more likely than it did in May. A strengthening El Niño, an atmospheric environment conducive to strong wind shear, and below average sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic were cited as the primary factors limiting hurricane development. Dust outbreaks were not included as a factor because of their unpredictability, according to reporting by The Palm Beach Post.
- Evan, A. et al, (2006, October 10) New evidence for a relationship between Atlantic tropical cyclone activity and African dust outbreaks. Geophysical Research Letters, 33 (19).
- Slooh Canary Islands Observatory (2012, June 29) What is La Calima (Canary Islands Dust Storm). Accessed August 12, 2015.
- The Weather Channel (2015, August 10) Why The Atlantic Basin Is As Hostile To Hurricane Formation As Possible Right Now. Accessed August 12, 2015.
- The Canary News (2015, August 6) Great Dust Cloud Over the Canary Islands. Accessed August 12, 2015.
- The Palm Beach Post (2015, July 21) Saharan dust strongest in decade, but will it help keep tropics quiet? Accessed August 12, 2015.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Adam Voiland.