European Space Agency published fascinating footage from last week showing how the ash plume of the La Palma volcano eruption charge west across the Atlantic Ocean. The ash is crossing the atmosphere just at the end of the high hurricane season.
Considering that things have been (luckily) calm in the Atlantic in recent weeks with regard to hurricanes, it makes sense to question the impact of La Palma on the hurricane season. While ash is certainly something that can slowing the hurricane season, we probably have other factors to blame, however.
Scientists from ESA’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service has been track down the ash plume from the volcano started to erupt end of September. Initially, the sulfur plumes carbon dioxide from the volcano traveled east from the Canary Islands to northern Africa and southern Europe, eventually reaching parts of northern and western Europe. Tthanks to a change in wind direction in early October, however, the plume is now almost flowing 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) across the Atlantic and beyond the Caribbean.
Since the change of direction, the Atlantic has also passed abnormally calm when it comes to hurricanes and tropical storms. There are a lot of factors that go into the formation of hurricanes. Not only do the ocean waters need to be warm enough to fuel the bubbling storm (which, thanks to climate changeoccurs more and more often), but the air in the atmosphere must also be humid and unstable for the storm to develop. Any change in weather conditions – outside factors that make it drier or warmer – can influence the formation of hurricanes.
A notable example of this is sahara desert dust travel with winds all along the Atlantic and towards Mexico. It is in fact a fairly regular occurrence and regularly impacts the formation of hurricanes. The dust is accompanied by super dry air, which is injected into the atmosphere and calms all the precursors of hurricanes. CAMS in fact noted that the arrival of Saharan dust in the Caribbean coincided with the volcanic plumes reaching the islands, resulting in poor air quality in Puerto Rico and other parts of the region early. October.
The role of ash, however, is less well known. Ash is an aerosol, a generic term for tiny particles that can help form clouds. Ocean salt, dust, and human-made pollution are also considered aerosols. Dustin Grogan, who works in the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of Albany, said in an email that he was not aware of any research linking volcanic ash to the development of hurricanes.
“In general, sulphates from volcanic ash (or forest fires) would help promote cloud development in convective systems, such as hhurricanes because they serve as seeds for cloud droplets, âhe said. “There are, however, several studies which have investigated the effects of aerosols on hhurricanes associated with dust, originating in the Saharan desert.
Grogan noted that since the plume turned to the Atlantic, “there has only been one storm that has shown the potential to produce a hurricane over the Atlantic, and it has not developed, âalthough he warned that he had not fully examined all links between the volcano and the stunted storm. He also said the volcanic plume encountering the dust cloud as they both move west “could add complexity to the analysis of the ash’s contribution to the storm’s development.”
Brian McNoldy, Senior Research Associate at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, said in an email It was possible “the volcano’s aerosol plume is high enough in the atmosphere and is not ingested in potential disturbances (or hurricanes).
The volcano is still erupting, and although the plumes are expected to recirculate across Europe, the hurricane season lasts until November 30. This means there could be more potential for storms and more opportunities to see …if the winds start blowing the ashes towards the Atlantic, how does the ashes unfold?.
“The end of hurricane season is also fast approaching,” said Grogan. “So we’ll have to wait and see if other storms develop and interact with the ash.”
Other natural factors such as recently developed La NiÃ±a could also play a role. The trend towards colder ocean temperatures in the the eastern tropical Pacific generally attenuates the winds that can shred storms. It means ash and dust or not, there is still time for hurricanes to accelerate.