African Storms Possible Harbinger of Atlantic Hurricanes

By Tom Yulsman | August 29, 2013 2:07 am

Convective storms building in Africa on Aug. 28th, 2013. (Image: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory.)

The Meteosat-9 satellite has spotted storms firing up in Africa and moving out into the Atlantic, as seen in the image above. This could mark a shift from an unusually quiet weather pattern in the region during August to one conducive to producing Atlantic hurricanes.

These cyclones typically are born from thunderstorms that drift into the Atlantic from the coast of West Africa at this time of year — precisely what seems to be happening now.

Meteorologist Jeff Masters of notes that if August ends without a hurricane, it will be the first time since 2002 that this has happened. But the activity now being seen in Africa may be a sign that things are finally changing.

From a recent post by Masters

. . . the quiet weather pattern we’ve been blessed with is about to come to an end, as conditions favorable for hurricane formation move into place for the last few days of August and the first week of September. The big guns of the African Monsoon are firing off a salvo of African tropical waves over the next two weeks that will find the most favorable conditions for development that we’ve seen this year.

Among those conditions is a phenomenon known as the Madden Julian Oscillation, or MJO, involving increased equatorial thunderstorm activity. According to Masters, one model is suggesting that the current MJO will be the third strongest in the Western Hemisphere since 1989.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Climate, select, Top Posts, Weather


ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar