Saharan dust chokes hurricane season -- so far

Forecasters trim hurricane forecast, but season could still be above average

By Blake Mathews - Meteorologist
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Has anybody ever told you to eat dirt? Well, believe it or not, of late you've probably complied with their wishes whether you wanted to or not.

Massive plumes of dust have been rolling off the African continent that have not only thrown dust in your eyes, but put a major kibosh on the hurricane season as well.

The dust stretches from Africa, past the East Coast to Texas and beyond.

Dust is associated with big areas of dry air.  I wouldn't really consider the Saharan desert a tropical paradise.  Have you seen Aladain? I need a drink of water just thinking about it.

The hurricane season certainly has been depressed due to the tremendous amounts of dust and dry air in the atmosphere over the primary development regions of the tropics.

Tropical systems require vast amounts of moisture to thrive. Check out the latest Saharan Air Layer image at the top of this page.

It's no wonder its as quiet as a church house mouse in the tropics.

This week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration trimming back its forecast for the number of hurricanes they expect this year to between six and nine, with three to five of them being major storms with winds greater than 110 mph.

We've had four very (and I mean very) marginal tropical storms this year so far; none of which are memorable. All but Andrea have struggled due to being choked by the dust. However as we move into the prime of hurricane season -- late August and early September -- the cap will blow and we'll be off to the races.

NOAA forecasters say there remains a 70 percent chance that the season will be busier than normal. A normal year has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major storms.

See, all this time you thought that the sandman was the villain of night that puts crust in your eyes. Not so. And by the way, next time somebody tells you to eat dirt, tell them you have and that it has likely saved them from the worst that hurricanes can offer up.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.