Satellite images show that a large cloud of Saharan dust has spread across a corridor of the Atlantic basin. This is by no means a new phenomenon, but this year the dust plume has lifted off the African coast a month ahead of its usual pace. This threatens an earlier than usual start to hurricane season and a chance of storms near the US coast where the water is shallow and warm.

Typically, hurricane season begins around June, but just a few months ago, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) released a statement that warned of a possible change of date. Tropical storms which occur due to Saharan dust usually form on the US coastline, particularly near the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast Coast.

This year, there is a chance of storms formed by warm ocean water along frontal boundaries. However, some experts believe that this isn’t very likely, since the water isn’t warm enough to support pre-season storms. It is also possible that the dust will dissipate before it reaches the Caribbean. Having said that, the dust cloud still worries meteorologists. Many experts believe we will experience an active 2021 Atlantic hurricane season because of it.

An East African Jet pattern forecasts storms and severe hurricane-related weather conditions in August, September, and October. The US can expect 16-20 named storms, 7-10 of which will likely mature into hurricanes. Weather forecasters also predict a “strong wind shear” – a category of wind that changes directions rapidly or speeds up in high altitude over the Gulf of Mexico. This wind shear may prevent tropical storms from taking shape. If a storm does manage to mature around the southwest Atlantic, it would move north or northeast and gradually dissipate as it moves toward the coast.

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