Weather tracker: US experts predict one of most active hurricane seasons on record | Hurricanes

Last week, the US National Hurricane Center issued its first advisory of the year, more than a month before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from 1 June to 30 November. An area of low pressure was identified on Wednesday 24 April in the east-central Atlantic Ocean, about 900 miles to the north-west of Cape Verde.

The low quickly dispersed as it moved into an area of stronger upper level winds. But although this disturbance did not cause any impacts, it is perhaps a sign of what forecasters are predicting will be one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. Earlier in April, the Colorado State University issued its Atlantic hurricane forecast, with a prediction of 23 named storms, 11 hurricanes and five major hurricanes. For comparison, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average hurricane season between 1991 and 2020 comprised roughly 14 tropical storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

The above-average season being forecast has been attributed partly to the very high sea surface temperatures (SST) currently in the Atlantic. SSTs in the main tropical storm development region were recorded at 1.2C above normal in February, a new record high for the month, thus providing plenty of fuel for any potential storm to develop. Additionally, forecasters are predicting a weakening of El Niño through the season, reducing wind shear which enhances the formation of a hurricane. A high wind shear can prevent a storm from intensifying by displacing heat and moisture from the centre and limiting the vertical accent of air parcels.

Meanwhile, south-east Europe, particularly Greece, was engulfed by a severe dust storm last week, originating from the Sahara. Officials noted the concentration of dust particles was so high that it obscured sunlight and significantly reduced visibility, which led to a marked decrease in electricity production from solar panels.

The elevated levels of fine pollution particles posed serious health risks, exacerbating respiratory issues especially in individuals with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or chronic bronchitis. Additionally, the dust carried pathogens and allergens, heightening the risk of respiratory infections and allergic reactions. The intensity of the African dust episode peaked last Tuesday, and conditions gradually improved over the week. However, another wave of dust had spread across parts of the western Mediterranean and central Europe by Sunday.

Persistent low pressure across western Europe is expected to facilitate further episodes of African dust reaching the continent this week. Increased dust levels are anticipated from the Mediterranean all the way to Scandinavia, although the westernmost parts of Iberia such as Gibraltar and Portugal might avoid these conditions.

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