Plume of Saharan dust keeps tropical activity low

Safety in the Storm

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Elsa brought some heavy rainfall to parts of Southwest and Central Virginia last Thursday before jetting off toward the northeast. Since the storm dissipated on July 11, tropical activity has been low and it’s all because of the Saharan dust.

According to NOAA, the Saharan Air Layer is a mass of very dry, dusty air that forms over the Sahara Desert during the late spring, summer, and early fall. This dusty air mass can travel over the Atlantic Ocean — thousands of miles away from the Sahara Desert in Africa.

This layer of dry Saharan air inhibits tropical activity in the Atlantic Ocean. Tropical storms and hurricanes need moist air to develop and stay alive.

Not only does the dusty air limit tropical activity, but some plumes can stretch from Africa all the way to the Continental United States. These plumes can create colorful sunrises and sunsets. The dry air mass can also lower rain chances in some areas.

Southwest and Central Virginia won’t really see major impacts from the Saharan Air Layer for the next several days. While some dust may enter the region, denser areas of dust are expected in the Southeastern United States and Texas.

It’s been quite a busy start to the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season with five named storms and one developing into a hurricane. We’re still about a few months away from the peak of the hurricane season. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 – Nov. 30.

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