Tropical Tuesday: Here's what's happening in the tropics this week

Posted: Jun 26, 2018 7:04 PM Updated:
A wedge of dust off of Africa and a small disturbance near North Carolina highlights tonight's Tropical Tuesday update from the NBC2 First Alert Hurricane Tracking Center.  
Let's begin with what's popping up near the Carolinas.  This is the only region in the Atlantic basin worthy of being monitored over the next few days, but for the time being is nothing more than an area of low pressure in the atmosphere east of North Carolina.  As of this evening the system isn't tropical, meaning it's not being fueled like a tropical storm or a hurricane would be using latent heat energy from warm tropical waters.  However, as it moves away from shore in the coming five days it may be able to take on some tropical system characteristics and that's why the National Hurricane Center is keeping an eye on it.  
What's important to keep in mind with this system is that it poses no threat to Florida.  In fact, there really isn't even a threat to the United States from it because should anything come about from this feature it would happen as it moves northeastward away from the east coast.  Also to consider with this situation is that the odds are not in this system's favor to develop.  The NHC says in the next two days there's only a 10% chance it's able to spin up into something more organized, and only a 20% shot in the next five days of it becoming more developed.  


In other news around the tropics this week, you can't properly analyze what's happening (and not happening) without pointing out the impact and influence of something called the Saharan Air Layer.  The "SAL", as it's sometimes called for short, plays a big role is suppressing hurricane development because the air it holds is hostile toward developing storms.  
Originating off of the Sahara Desert of northern Africa, the Saharan Air Layer is a wedge of air with lots of dust particles and generally little moisture in it.  As strong winds off of Africa blow plumes of dust westward, the makeup of this air mass essentially caps the atmosphere over the ocean preventing showers and storms from growing tall and strong.  This in turn makes it difficult for storms to congeal around areas of low pressure and stops any budding tropical storm or hurricane in its tracks.  
Satellites are the best way to monitor and track where and how prevalent the Saharan Air Layer is.  And what's cool about that is that it's the visible satellite (showing a straight up real-color image of Earth from space) that does the most compelling job of it.  


In this visible satellite image taken today you can easily make out where dusty plumes of the SAL are most notable over the Atlantic Ocean (I've boxed it in using red to make it clearer yet).  Notice that in areas where you see the dusty air there's not much more than just generally fair weather clouds forming mostly toward the lower layers of the atmosphere beneath the SAL.  
Satellites are great way to visually show where the SAL is present but graphic programs like ones available on TV can make it clearer yet.  Throughout the week, keep watch of the Saharan Air Layer maps shown during NBC2 Newscasts.  This is a graphical depiction showing based on the color intensity how influential the SAL is over that area of the globe.  You'll notice in the latest maps there's a generally high concentration of Saharan air over the Atlantic this evening, and it should for the most part stay there through the end of the work week.  This will keep any potential tropical threats in this part of the ocean very low.  


By the way, if you ever hear about the Saharan Air Layer being over or near Florida, head to the beach!  Sunsets and sunrises are often very vibrant when the SAL is present.  Unfortunately with this latest SAL push most of it will stay south of Florida, but we'll be sure to let you know if anything changes.  
With little tropical weather worries for South Florida this week, the daily afternoon sea breeze storm pattern highlights what we'll be keeping most watch of through the weekend.  Remember that lightning can and does strike up to 10 miles away from a thunderstorm, so it doesn't even have to be raining nearby for you to be struck if storms are in the area.  Stick with NBC2 and the region's only live Doppler radar to help you see how storms come together and where they're expected to move.  
We'll have another look at the tropics next week on the NBC2 First Alert Weather App with the another "Tropical Tuesday" update.