Tracking the Tropics: How Saharan dust helps keep Atlantic basin quiet

Top Stories

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — We’re almost two months into the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season and things have remained quiet since Hurricane Elsa dissipated several weeks ago.

The calm in the tropics is thanks, in part, to Saharan dust stretching across the Atlantic.

What is Saharan dust?

Saharan dust is something we see every year when plumes are generated from strong winds over the Sahara Desert. Winds and updrafts kick up the dry top layer of soil and raise it high into the atmosphere. Easterly trade winds can then carry the dust into the Atlantic.

Sometimes, when the dust plume is large enough and the easterly winds are strong enough, the plume travels all the way to the Caribbean and even the United States.

What does it mean for hurricane season?

Dust plumes seem to inhibit tropical development, but it is important to note that research is ongoing on this topic.

The plume of dust is mixed in with very dry air and usually contains strong winds, neither of which is good for tropical convection. The plume is about 50% drier than the rest of the tropical atmosphere in the Atlantic. The mid-level winds run 25 to 55 mph and can rip storms apart or prevent them from organizing in the first place. The areas are also typically warmer and can lead to sinking air and more stabilized air.

Dust plumes coming off the coast of Africa are quite normal this time of year. The plumes typically begin in mid-June and run through mid-August, peaking somewhere in the middle. According to NOAA, the plumes of dust seem to rapidly subside after mid-August, which is also why we see an uptick in tropical activity in August and September.

Not a dust storm

To avoid confusion and clear up one of the most common misconceptions, the plumes we see this time of year are not a typical dust storm. The dust is suspended high up in the atmosphere, between 5,000 feet and 20,000 feet – or about one to four miles.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Partly Cloudy

San Angelo

99°F Partly Cloudy Feels like 101°
Wind
2 mph SE
Humidity
29%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

A few clouds. Low around 75F. Winds light and variable.
75°F A few clouds. Low around 75F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
5 mph SSE
Precip
15%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter
Partly Cloudy

Robert Lee

98°F Partly Cloudy Feels like 101°
Wind
5 mph E
Humidity
31%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

A few clouds. Low 74F. Winds light and variable.
74°F A few clouds. Low 74F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
6 mph SE
Precip
22%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter
Partly Cloudy

Eldorado

96°F Partly Cloudy Feels like 98°
Wind
3 mph S
Humidity
30%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly cloudy. Low 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.
74°F Partly cloudy. Low 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.
Wind
7 mph S
Precip
9%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter
Partly Cloudy

Mertzon

97°F Partly Cloudy Feels like 98°
Wind
5 mph SE
Humidity
30%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly cloudy. Low 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.
74°F Partly cloudy. Low 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.
Wind
9 mph S
Precip
12%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter
Partly Cloudy

Eden

97°F Partly Cloudy Feels like 98°
Wind
2 mph SSE
Humidity
28%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly cloudy skies. Low 74F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
74°F Partly cloudy skies. Low 74F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
Wind
9 mph SSE
Precip
15%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Last Quarter

Skylive Cameras


Water Conservation Status

Standard Conservation

San Angelo is in standard conservation, which restricts outside watering to twice every seven days at no more than 1 inch per week, no watering between noon and 6 pm. Runoff of more than 150 feet down any street, gutter, alley or ditch is prohibited.

Report watering violations by clicking on https://www.cosatx.us/departments-services/water-conservation/report-a-water-violation or calling 325-657-4409. Do your part; be water smart!