Is dust mightier than a hurricane?

Science & Technology

This GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. EDT, and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. Landfall is expected Friday evening. (NOAA via AP)

UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV) – It might sound weird to think that dust has anything to do with hurricanes. Afterall, it’s just, well, dust. Though dust blown from the Saharan Desert has a crucial role in how Hurricane Season in the U.S. plays out.

During late spring, summer, and early fall, a very dry mass of dusty air forms over the Saharan Desert known as the Saharan Air Layer. This layer can travel thousands of miles away from the Saharan Desert and is so large that it can even be seen from space!

Scientist Dr. Jason Dunion, a University of Miami hurricane researcher, reported that the Saharan Air Layer can be anywhere from 2 to 2.5 miles thick and can travel as far west as Florida, Central America and even Texas! He also stated that it’s because of the unique properties of warm, dry air and strong winds associated with the Saharan Air Layer that can prevent hurricanes from forming and weaken them. 

The Saharan Air Layer is making it’s return to the Atlantic Ocean over the next several days which will keep hurricane activity fairly quiet in the time being. For more information on the Saharan Air Layer you can click on the following:

What is the Saharan Air Layer?

NOAA Saharan Air Layer

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