Dust mixed with smoke across central Africa in early January 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on January 9, 2011. Red dots indicate hotspots associated with fires.
Dust from the Bodele Depression, northeast of Lake Chad, blew toward the southwest, leaving dust over the lake and parts of Niger and Nigeria. At the same time, fires burned across central Africa (likely set for clearing agricultural land) and mingled smoke with the dust.
Saharan dust often travels across the Atlantic Ocean. Although the dust can cause respiratory irritation and coral damage, it also provides valuable soil to the New World. In fact, a 2006 study found that Amazon rainforest owes much of its soil to the Bodele Depression.
Central Africa is a region of the African continent comprising various countries according to different definitions. Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and São Tomé and Príncipe are members of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). Six of those states (Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon) are also members of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and share a common currency, the Central African CFA franc. The African Development Bank defines Central Africa as Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Middle Africa is an analogous term used by the United Nations in its geoscheme for Africa. It includes the same countries as the African Development Bank’s definition, along with Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe.[
Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.