Last update: September 18th, 2019 at 6:00 pm
Dry, hot weather and strong westerly winds over the Saharan Desert in May 2016 combined to create an intense dust storm that not only lofted massive amounts of dust from the arid soils but also carried it many hundreds of miles across the Mediterranean Sea.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured a true-color image of the moving river of dust on May 10. The image shows dust curling over the island of Mallorca and the Italian islands of Sardinia and Sicily. Northern Algeria and Tunisia also have dust overhead. The dust rose from a broad band across Sahara, including southern Algeria, Mali, Niger, and Libya, entrained in the upper atmosphere, and was carried as far as the Baltic states.
It has been estimated that the Sahara Desert accounts for 25% of the suspended micro particles in the atmosphere. Somewhere near 100 million tons of dust each year is raised from Africa and is blown westward. Such storms can carry dust across the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of the western United States.