*NASA image
*NASA image

Huge summer dust storms in Africa could lie behind Bermuda’s unusually quiet hurricane season.

Research meteorologist, Jason Dunion, told the Sun forecasters he had noticed that huge amounts of very dry air had formed in areas that usually provide the breeding ground for hurricanes off the coast of West Africa.

And he said this dryer air, which prevents tropical systems from forming, could be a significant factor behind the lack of hurricane activity in 2013.

Mr Dunion, who works in the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAH), said NOAH had predicted far more hurricanes in the Atlantic this year.

He added: “We have looked at the main development regions where the storms that would affect Bermuda and the US would normally form and noticed some very interesting trends.

“The air at around 10,000 to 20,000 feet we have seen this year in these regions is the driest recorded.

“We don’t know exactly why this is the case but one of the contributing factors could have been these huge dust storms we have been seeing in Africa.

“And this in turn could be one of the reasons for the lack of hurricane activity seen in Bermuda this year.”

In April forecasters from NOAH predicted 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes would develop in the Atlantic.

However to date there have been just 17 named storms, two of which have reached hurricane force and none of which have been major hurricanes.

Only one tropical storm, Gabrielle, has affected Bermuda this year.

Mr Dunion added: “Certainly there are years when you might expect to see a quiet season, but this was not one of them.

“We had predicted a fairly active season and it has actually been very inactive. We need to sift through the data to see why it was so quiet.”

Bermuda Weather Service Director Kimberley Zuill pointed out that there had almost been the predicted number of named storms, but not the intensity.

She told the Sun: “Seasonal forecasts may not necessarily be that helpful and are only in their infancy so there are often teething problems. Even though it is considered an inactive season we have still had local activity and the season is not finished yet.” n