Saharan dust over the Atlantic Ocean •

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features dust streaming over the Western Sahara. Throughout the month of July 2022, strong winds have transported Saharan dust across the Atlantic Ocean

“Dust plays a major role in Earth’s climate and biological systems. Since it is rich with iron and other minerals that plants and phytoplankton need, it provides natural fertilizer for ecosystems when it lands downwind,” says NASA.

“The airborne particles also absorb and reflect sunlight – altering the amount of solar energy reaching the planet’s surface. Dust can also promote or reduce cloud and storm formation, depending on other atmospheric conditions.”

According to Brian McNoldy, a meteorologist at the University of Miami, dust can slow down hurricanes.

“Most hurricane experts think that the Saharan Air Layer is bad for hurricanes,” explained McNoldy. “Not only does it contain dry air, but there’s typically a layer of high wind shear associated with it. Hurricanes hate both of those things.”

McNoldy said the three recently named storms in the Atlantic have an accumulated cyclone energy that’s about 41 percent of average for this point in the season. 

“That’s quiet, but things can turn around in a blink of an eye with just one hurricane. If we’re still at 41 percent of average at the end of September, that would be a definite sign of a quiet season.”

The image was captured on July 26, 2022 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. 

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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