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Westward swirling clouds of dust from the Sahara Desert might be
putting a damper on Atlantic Ocean hurricanes, a new study suggests.
Researchers analyzing satellite data from the past 25 years found
that during years when the dust storms rose up, fewer hurricanes
swept across the Atlantic, while periods of low dust storm activity
were followed by more intense hurricane activity.
Hurricanes are fueled by heat and moisture, and it's thought the dust
storms help muffle the storms before they fully develop.
By doing so, however, the dust storms could shift a hurricane's direc-
tion further to the west, the researchers say, increasing the likelihood
that it would hit the United States and Caribbean Islands
Preliminary analyses of this year's dust activity also support the theory,
Evan said. The 2006 hurricane season has been weaker than originally
forecasted, and Evan thinks the high dust storm activity observed earli-
er in the year is partly to thank.