Tropical Storm Chris Bears Down As African Dust Clouds Stifle Hurricane Season

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Tropical Storm Chris is expected to gain hurricane-level wind strength within the next 24 hours, even as a massive dust cloud floating across the Atlantic is quelling this season’s hurricane.

Chris is kicking around 200 miles off the coast of the Carolinas. It’s unlikely to make direct contact with the U.S., but the first major storm of the season is expected to become a hurricane by Tuesday, according to Fox 13’s meteorologist Dave Osterberg.

“Literally nobody on the east coast will have a direct impact,” Osterberg said, but those living on the coast of the Carolinas and New England should expect high winds and dangerous surf. Chris is holding steady with sustained wind speeds of 60 miles per hour.

Chris is materializing even as a massive North African dust cloud is working to suppress hurricane activity from Africa to Houston, TX. The air originated in the Sahara Desert and is dominating weather across the Atlantic and beyond.

“The dust is the marker of the extremely dry air coming off the Sahara Desert,” Gerry Bell, a hurricane climate specialist at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center, told Bloomberg Monday. “It is the dry air that can suppress storm development and limit the size of the storms.”

Warm, moist air is the special ingredient necessary to generate enough energy to transform a tropical storm into a raging hurricane. Dry air acts as a type of kryptonite, denying a storm cell the energy required to power blast across the Atlantic. (RELATED: Hurricane Irma Has Maintained 185 MPH Winds Longer Than Any Other Storm In the Satellite Era)

One hundred million tons of Saharan dust permeates across the Americas ever year, reaching deep into the Amazon and spreading across the southeastern section of Houston, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The dust trail tracts along the route hurricanes usually travel.

“It happens pretty much every summer, the reason why it was such a big deal this time was it was a lot thicker and there was a lot more than normally comes over,” said Sarah Randall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “It really stood out this time.”

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