In the midst of hurricane season, climatologists around the world are monitoring tropical storm formations that have the potential to escalate into deadly hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season included 17 named storms last year, many of which proved to be costly and destructive for communities in their path. Hurricanes are becoming stronger and wetter due to rising sea and air temperatures. Saharan dust storms can also play a role in hurricane formation. Researchers at Chapman University have learned from studying 2012's Hurricane Sandy, that we are more likely to see larger, more powerful hurricanes in the future.
"Although Sandy was a Category 3 storm when it made landfall in Cuba, it became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record when measured by diameter, with winds spanning 900 miles," said Chapman University Climatologist Hesham El-Askary, Ph.D.
A Saharan dust event occurring in West Africa weeks before Sandy had formed carried large amounts of mineral dust into the troposphere, filling the tropical wave that became Sandy with aerosols along a majority of its path. By monitoring dust storms, Dr. El-Askary was able to tie this occurrence to the role it played in the hurricane's development from a Category 1 to a Category 3 storm. With this work, he hopes to provide more accurate forecasting for these types of extreme weather occurrences.
The research, titled "Characterizing the Impact of Aerosols on Pre-Hurricane Sandy" was published in the IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing. Dr. El-Askary investigates the impact that African dust storms over the Atlantic played in the formation of the tropical storm system that eventually became Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
About Chapman University: Founded in 1861 and based in the city of Orange, California, Chapman University is one of the oldest, most prestigious private universities in the state and is the largest independent university in Orange County. With a student body of 9,400 undergraduate and graduate students, Chapman University offers all the opportunities and resources of a large institution with the personalized attention of a smaller university. The University employs 489 full-time instructional faculty and maintains a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and an average class size of 23 students. Known for its blend of liberal arts and professional programs - including film, science, business, education, humanities and performing arts - Chapman encompasses 10 schools and colleges.