UCL News


African sandstorms take the sting out of hurricanes

14 September 2006

A world-renowned hurricane expert has said the storm-free first half of this year's season is down to the freak impact of an African sandstorm not seen in over 50 years.

Professor Mark Saunders [UCL-Benfield Hazard Research Centre], lead scientist at Tropical Storm Risk, said sand storms blown over from the Sahara had drawn much of the moisture out of the North Atlantic air. …

"The below average hurricane activity is down to the unexpected and influential presence of considerable African dry air and Saharan dust over the hurricane main development region which has inhibited thunderstorm formation.

"We have not seen the impact of African dry air and dust since the 1950s. Once again, it goes to show that there is always an unknown when it comes to the forces of nature." …

Prof Saunders said TSR has now downgraded its forecast for the second half of the 2006 season to one where there will be 13 tropical storms, of which six will turn into hurricane strength and two of these will be intense hurricanes.

"It is looking like a season which will be 10% below the average," he explained. …

"We will look to work on our first long-range forecast for 2007 in November, but the degrees of certainty increase the closer to the season we get."

TSR will also launch the first public access system which will give probabilistic rainfall forecasts for tropical storms. …

"We will be launching the new service in November and believe it will be immense value to insurers, reinsurers and risk managers, who will be able to track the rainfall and calculate their potential exposures."

Jon Guy, 'Lloyd's List'