I hope you’ve been having a wonderful summer. And now, we enter August, the unofficial last month of summer.
We sure had our fair share of storms last month. July certainly lived up to expectations with torrential tropical downpours and intense lightning. Yet August is the summer month I dread the most. It’s when tropical disturbances form off the west coast of Africa. When they cross that warm ocean water of the Atlantic, they will grow, and grow, and grow. Many will become major hurricanes and many will move toward the U.S. Georgia is in double jeopardy from these types of hurricanes. Along the coast, it’s storm surge and powerful winds. Inland, where we are, the outer bands will frequently spin up tornadoes in the outer bands. As these outer bands continue to push farther inland from the coast, the deep tropical moisture is forced upward by Georgia’s topography. This will unleash incredible rainfall amounts. I’ve seen 6-10 inches of rain from a single storm. We will also likely see that kind of rain falling in HOURS, not days. When we have an approaching tropical system, let’s all be acutely, weather aware.
As I’ve mentioned, we have not seen the above average hurricane season that was predicted, at least not yet. The mitigating factor may just be the Sahara dust layer coming off Africa. Dust from the Sahara Desert (the world’s third largest desert located about 5,000 miles away in North Africa) is drifting over the south Atlantic and southern Caribbean. It forms in the late spring or early summer every year due to storms in Africa’s Sahel region bordering the Sahara.
So how does the Sahara dust play a role in inhibiting the formation of tropical storms? Dust acts as a shield, keeping sunlight from reaching the surface. Thus, large amounts of dust can keep the sea surface temperatures up to two degrees cooler than average in the hurricane Main Development Region (MDR) from the coast of Africa to the Caribbean, providing hurricanes with less energy to form and grow. Tropical systems don’t like dry air in the middle parts of the atmosphere, and that’s exactly what the Saharan Air Layer contains. A Saharan dust storm also has a very strong surge of air embedded within it, called the mid-level easterly jet, that can rip a storm apart that’s trying to develop. Let’s hope it keeps going!
Locally, here is what we can expect to see in the sky in August. We will have a new moon on Sunday, August 9. Then on the 22nd, we will have the full “Sturgeon Moon.”
This is a great year for the Perseid Meteor Shower too! The moon will set in the early evening, providing dark skies. Start watching for these meteors in early August. Their numbers will gradually increase. Predicted peak will be the night of August 11-12, but try the nights before and after, too, from late night until dawn. The Perseid meteor shower is my favorite meteor shower of the year. These fast and bright meteors radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. As with all meteor shower radiant points, you don’t need to know Perseus to watch the shower. Instead, the meteors appear in all parts of the sky. These meteors frequently leave persistent trains. Perseid meteors tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight. The shower typically produces the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. Enjoy the show!