An unusual player is reshuffling the cards in the Atlantic

In summary :

  • After Bonnie and Colin, tropical activities run out of steam;
  • Saharan sand is the culprit;
  • Limits the formation and scaling of systems;
  • Everything can still change.

As in previous years, the start of the 2022 hurricane season should be particularly intense. With Alex, Bonnie and Colin training just days apart, things were looking promising. After a strong start, however, activity in the Atlantic basin is running out of steam.

By this time last year, the first hurricane of the season had formed. Recall that Elsa met several Caribbean islands, including Cuba, before traveling south and east of the United States. This system is also the earliest ever observed whose name begins with the letter e, ahead of Edouard established in 2020.

The sands of the Sahara, a major obstacle

The Saharan air layer, a warm, dry air mass that periodically appears in the atmosphere, is responsible for the sudden slowdown. Often rich in Saharan dust, this layer facilitates the transport of nearly 60 million tons of sand between Africa and the Americas each year.

Less radiation

The Sahara sand acts as a protective shield. Particles suspended in the atmosphere block solar radiation. Clouds can also be more present in the sky, further limiting the contribution of the sun’s rays. This reduces the heat input to the sea surface and lowers the water temperature.

It’s no secret that tropical storms thrive in warm waters and require energy to gain strength, and cooler surface waters are less likely to be a breeding ground.

Warmer at altitude than near the surface

The presence of dry, dusty air also creates a temperature inversion. This phenomenon occurs when a layer of warm air overlies another, cooler layer. Since the latter is closer to the surface, this slows down the development of thunderstorms (which also need warmth and moisture to form). Tropical systems feed on storm cells for energy, and this new impediment is enough to drastically reduce activity in the Atlantic basin.

August and September remain to be seen

The hurricane season typically gains momentum in August and September, when activity peaks.


Colorado State University forecasts another record year, both in terms of system count and performance. According to current forecasts, up to 20 named disturbances are expected, ten of which are expected to become hurricanes. Of these, five could become major hurricanes, wreaking havoc anywhere in their wake.

ALSO SEE: When a Hurricane Loses Its Name

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