UPDATE: Low tropical development, vibrant sunsets

Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 9:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 10:13 PM EDT
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Latest Data:

Recent observations from both satellite and firsthand accounts support African dust completing the journey across the Atlantic. As of Tuesday night, readings observed in San Juan, Portico suggest this is the highest concentration of dust particles from African in at least 50 years. While this is a common occurrence each season, this particular event is registering nearly 5 times thicker than average.

Impacts for ENC:

The forecast calls for the current steering pattern to turn this large plume back north and over the United States. Satellite data has been helpful in tracking the particulate and models have done a nice job resolving this situation. With that, we can expect a hazier sunrise and sunset starting as early as Saturday morning with a peak “obstruction” on Sunday. To the astute observer, the sun may look dimmer through the course of the day and hazier around sunrise/sunset. Health impacts directly related to the dust is not a concern at this time.

Saharan Dust has completed the long trip across the Atlantic and is currently over the Caribbean.
Saharan Dust has completed the long trip across the Atlantic and is currently over the Caribbean.(WITN Weather)

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In a year that has all the makings for being active, African dust being carried over the Atlantic may help keep it quiet for the next few weeks. The relationship is pretty well understood that as the amount of dust increases, the chances of tropical systems developing in the Atlantic decrease.

A publication in the American Geophysical Union explored this relationship, “Our analysis suggests the variability in dust… is strongly linked to changes in North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity.” Below you will find the strong link:

A strong relationship can be seen between dust and tropical cyclone days.
A strong relationship can be seen between dust and tropical cyclone days.(Amato T. Evan)

“New evidence for a relationship between Atlantic tropical cyclone activity and African dust outbreaks”

In the figure above, the gray line represents days with tropical cyclones while the black indicates dust concentration. Notice as the gray lines goes up, the number of tropical cyclones days goes down.

In years when the dust is thick and traveling across the Atlantic, tropical development can be hindered if not shut down completely. As of Wednesday night, satellite data has clearly indicated a strong wave coming off of Africa with a substantial amount of dust. Combine that with other ingredients regarding tropical development and all signs point to very low tropical activity for the next few weeks.

Additionally, like wildfire smoke, particulate in the air can actually enhance the colors of our rising and setting sun. By this weekend it’s possible this dust will create a vibrant atmospheric painting of reds, oranges and purples.

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