DISCUSSION: Although we normally are not captivated by Saharan Dust plumes during the winter months due to other large-scale weather events taking center-stage during the Winter-time months. Having said that, this is still quite an impressive event from a purely atmospheric standpoint due to the fact that this particular dust plume is so large in terms of its overall spatial extent. Often times, Saharan Dust plumes which travel through what is most commonly referred to as the Saharan Air Layer (or SAL) across the atmospheric science community are most important (in terms of their net impacts) during the Summer and Fall months. The reason for this is due to the fact that Saharan Dust plumes often will interact will developing or even mature tropical cyclones both throughout the Tropical Atlantic basin and tropical oceanic basins around the world.
Thus, these dust plumes which emerge off of western Africa will often have what has most often been observed as a "weakening or limiting" effect on the intensity of tropical cyclones. In light of the fact that it is now the heart of Winter across the Northern Hemisphere, there is much less influence in that regard from such a massive Saharan Dust plume such as this one. Nonetheless, several million tons of Saharan dust still is deposited on an annual basis across much of the Amazon River basin and other nearby regions as well. Thus, even if this Saharan Dust plume is not having a truly profound impact on larger-scale atmospheric dynamics and/or atmospheric thermodynamics, there are still other impacts which result from the presence and longer-term evolution of these Saharan Dust plumes.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz