Firing Up the Tropics

As we kick off the month of June, not only are we entering the start of the summer months but also that of the tropical storm and hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean.  Before I get too far here, I know that Wisconsin is about as far away from the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico as you can get, and we will fortunately never be directly hit by a hurricane.  However, there are scenarios where if a storm tracked through the western Gulf and then moved due north up the Mississippi River Valley (in a weakened state of course) along say a stalled out front, we would see flooding rains, possible tornadoes, and the sticky, humid air that comes along with these storms.  Doesn't sound like anything out of the ordinary in the Midwest for the summer months, right?  Well even if the next Hurricane Rita isn't going to make landfall on the shores of Lake Wausau, food and gas prices are just a couple of the things that come to mind that we'd have to deal with indirectly because of a hurricane.
That said, various pundits have made their predictions about the hurricane season, with the outlook for it to be close to if not a little above average with 12 to 16 tropical storms, and 6 to 9 storms becoming hurricanes.  But I bet you didn't know that Saharan Dust can actually prevent the develop of hurricanes.  As we move into August and September, tropical storms and hurricanes can get their start along the west coast of Africa before traversing toward North America.  Studies have been ongoing for the past decade or so tracking dust storms in Africa which pull millions of tons of sand into the atmosphere.  This sand then gets circulated westward over the same area where our havoc causing storms form, making it difficult for tropical storms or hurricanes to develop. Of course pin pointing if and when these dust storms will occur during the summer months is difficult and can only be detected by satellite.
Are more hurricanes forming now than they have in the past?  There have been record years in the past 15 years (1995 and 2005) but also others that were at or even below average.  It all comes down to the weather pattern that has set up over the Atlantic Basin and if the ocean water temperatures are favorable for development. There is plenty of research still to be done, but the best advice for those folks living along the coast is to be prepared for whatever might come their way.
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