Saharan dust causes Tropical Storm Gonzalo to weaken

Barbados, St Vincent and Trinidad are among several southeast Caribbean countries in the direct line of Tropical Storm Gonzalo’s path. (Photo New York Times)

The bothersome Saharan dust plume has proved to be a nuisance for both humans and storms as Gonzalo has slightly weakened on its approach to the Caribbean.

According to the Met Office of Trinidad and Tobago, the Sahara dust around Tropical Storm Gonzalo is responsible for the stunted development and intensification anticipated on Thursday afternoon (July 23).

By this time, Gonzalo was already forecast to have strengthened into a category one hurricane, however, the system now has maximum sustained winds of 95 kilometres/hour.

As at 2:00 pm Eastern Standard Time (EST), Tropical Storm Gonzalo was located at latitude 9.7 North and longitude 48.8 West—or 1,370 kilometres east of the southern Windward Islands.

The hurricane watch advisory for Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines remains in effect as the National Hurricane Center (NHC) indicated that Gonzalo continues to churn westerly at 22 kilometres/hour.

Interestingly, the Saharan dust may have an additional effect on Tropical Storm Gonzalo as the Florida-based NHC noted that the system is much smaller in size than anticipated; with storm-force winds only extending 35 kilometres from its centre.

The NHC warned that there is still a chance Gonzalo could develop into the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic season.

“Satellite-derived wind data indicate that maximum sustained winds have decreased to near 60 mph (95 km/h) with higher gusts.  Some re-strengthening is possible during the next couple of days, and there is still a chance that Gonzalo could become a hurricane,” the NHC advisory remarked.

“The satellite wind data indicate that Gonzalo is an even smaller storm than previously thought, and tropical-storm-force winds only extend outward up to 25 miles (35 km) from the centre,” it continued.