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.
On March 10, 2007, thick plumes of dust blew off the west coast of Africa and over the Canary Islands. In this image, the tan dust strikes a strong contrast with the navy blue ocean. The dust plumes are thickest over the Canary Islands, almost thick enough to completely obscure the satellite’s view of them.
Saharan dust hovered over the Atlantic for several days in mid-January 2008. This image shows two different areas of dust plume activity. Immediately off the coasts of Western Sahara and Mauritania, a series of tan dust plumes blow in predominantly straight lines toward the northwest. Farther west, a large, diffuse plume of dust hangs over the Atlantic Ocean