Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features dust from the Sahara blowing over the North Atlantic Ocean in early June 2022. According to NASA, winds pick up an estimated 100 million tons of dust from the Sahara Desert each year.
“Dust plays a major role in Earth’s climate and biological systems. The airborne particles absorb and reflect sunlight – altering the amount of solar energy reaching the surface – and can also promote or reduce cloud and storm formation, depending on other atmospheric conditions. Dust can degrade air quality and have negative health effects, particularly for people with lung conditions. And dust – rich with iron and other minerals that plants and phytoplankton need – provides natural fertilizer for ocean ecosystems and lands downwind,” reports NASA.
“The Sahara Desert is by far Earth’s largest source of airborne dust, and the storms can arise at any time of year. In winter and spring storms, Saharan dust often ends up fertilizing the nutrient-poor soils of the Amazon rainforest. Dust storms in the summer tend to loft material higher into the atmosphere, allowing plumes to travel thousands of kilometers on high-level winds. Those summer seasonal wind patterns can carry the dust from Africa to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Plumes of dust recently reached Florida, Texas, and other southern U.S. states in mid-May 2022.”
The image was captured by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the NOAA-20 satellite.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory