Saharan Dust Over The Mediterranean Sea •

Last update: October 17th, 2019 at 9:00 am

In late February 2016, a river of dust flowed from the Saharan Desert across the Mediterranean Sea behind a strong cold front. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this true-color image on February 29.

A line of heavy cloud marks the leading edge of the cold front as it marches across the Mediterranean from east to west. The landscape ahead of the front appears crisply defined while cloud and dust obscure most of the land and water from view behind the leading edge.

This cold front was part of a cyclonic system named Golia which circulated over the Adriatic Sea and Northern Balkans from February 27 – 29. The system created severe weather across the region. Italy was hit especially hard, with heavy rain, high wind gusts, and storm surge battering the southern part of the country while snowstorms hit the north. Five people were reported killed in Italy from extreme weather caused by Golia.

As the cold front moved across the Mediterranean, sand and dust from as far south as the Sahara Desert rode a powerful dry intrusion which moved behind the front. It is not uncommon for strong southerly winds to carry dust from Africa across the Mediterranean. The dramatic spectacle of a massive movement of Saharan dust behind a crisp cold front is more rarely captured from space.


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