The team found that instances of Saharan dry air and dust extending far west over the Caribbean were in sync with conditions that contributed to fewer hurricanes in both 2007 and 2006, including lower sea surface temperatures. They also found that the far-reaching western extent of dust in 2006 and 2007 was associated with less-than-normal humidity over the western North Atlantic.
"This index hasn't been looked at before," said Lau. "We introduce a way to relate wind stretch to dry air and dust, which correlate very well with humidity in the western tropical Atlantic."
The link between dust and humidity, the researchers say, could aid future forecasts. As dust outbreaks occur most often in early summer prior to peak hurricane season, researchers could use a measure of humidity in the western tropical Atlantic to gauge the extent of dust transport, possibly providing an additional parameter to estimate the following month's hurricane activity.
"The index we proposed may provide practical implications for the prediction of Atlantic hurricane activities," says Donglian Sun of George Mason University in Fairfax Va., and lead author of the study. "Further studies are needed to discern the general prediction capability of our results."
If the index is on target, the team believes it could also describe dust's role in past hurricane seasons. Records of historical wind data from ground stations could be applied to the index to infer the westward extent of
|Contact: Lynn Chandler|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center