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Atlantic Still Quiet, Waiting on Gilma in Eastern Pacific

hurricane season 2012
(Image credit:

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Outside of a tropical disturbance near Florida with little chance for development, the Atlantic basin is still quiet as we head into the final full week of July.

The Eastern Pacific, however, remains somewhat more active in comparison to the Atlantic, with another tropical storm expected to form this week.

If development does occur, the storm would take the name "Gilma."

Saharan Dust Limiting Atlantic Activity

Copious amounts of dust and sand particles blowing off the Sahara Desert in northern Africa and west across the ocean is mostly responsible for the lack of tropical activity, and has been for the past couple of weeks.

Special satellite imagery over the past few days reveals the dust particles suspended in the air have made it as far west as the Caribbean and Florida, according to Meteorologist Meghan Evans.

This special satellite image shows dry, dusty air (in yellow and red) blowing off the African continent into the Atlantic Ocean. (Image credit: University of Wisconsin-CIMSS/NOAA)

The unusual distance the dust has traveled has caught the attention of some seasoned meteorologists.

"This is the largest concentration of dust that I have seen making it that far west across the Atlantic this year," AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said. "Usually dust starts to dissipate as it reaches the western Atlantic."

The dry, sinking air thanks to the concentration of dust has kept a large portion of the Atlantic from near the western coast of Africa to the northern Caribbean cloud-free, and thus, incapable of tropical cyclone formation.

It has been nearly a month since the last named system was spinning in the basin, Tropical Storm Debby in Florida on June 27.

The quiet period is in stark contrast to the stretch of time from around Debby back to May 19 which saw two named storms before the official start of hurricane season and four total storms before July began, which is a record.

It should be stressed that hurricane season is long from over; it runs until Nov. 30. In fact, the season doesn't typically switch into full gear until the middle of August before peaking in mid-September.

Another Storm Expected in the Eastern Pacific

In contrast to the Atlantic, the eastern Pacific has been rather active since the beginning of July, with three hurricanes forming, two of them major (category three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale).

(Image credit:

Another system expected to form this week could soon after be on the path to becoming another hurricane, the fifth of the season in total.

The disturbance, centered about 750 miles southwest of Manzanillo, Mexico, is showing signs of development and is in an environment favorable for strengthening.

Fortunately, soon-to-be Tropical Storm Gilma is headed west away out to sea and should pose no threat to any land masses similar to recent hurricanes in the basin.

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Bill Deger