Dust storm over the central Atlantic Ocean • Earth.com

Last update: June 15th, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features dust blowing out of the Sahara Desert and over the central Atlantic Ocean.

According to NASA, millions of tons of dust are lofted out of northwest Africa each year. The dust particles are rich in iron and phosphorus. They fertilize distant soils, as well as the surface waters of the Atlantic. 

On the other hand, the airborne particles can negatively impact air quality and reduce visibility.

The dust storm has emerged roughly one year after NASA instruments recorded the largest dust storm in two decades of observations. In June 2020, Saharan dust covered the Caribbean Sea and darkened the sky in several southeastern states in the U.S.

Experts at the University of Kansas used NASA satellite data to investigate how atmospheric circulation patterns can carry dust across such vast distances. 

“The African easterly jet stream exports the dust from Africa towards the Atlantic region,” said study lead author Bing Pu. “Then the North Atlantic subtropical high, which is a high-pressure system sitting over the subtropical North Atlantic, can further transport it towards the Caribbean region.” 

“The Caribbean low-level jet, along with the subtropical high, can further transport the dust from the Caribbean region towards the States.”

The image was captured on June 4, 2021 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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