Clouds of dust billow out of southwestern Sudan to blanket parts of the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is just part of a large dust storm that stretched across much of Central Africa on April 4, 2005, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image.
This storm seems to be originating at several points in the upper right corner of the image, and the dust is blowing southwest. The densest veil of dust hangs over the border between the three countries. MODIS also detected a few fires, which have been marked in red.
Over time, large-scale African dust storms such as this one can stretch into northern Europe and across the Atlantic into North and South America. The dust is at once harmful and beneficial to the ecosystems it affects. It can provide iron and other nutrients that marine plants need to grow, but the winds also carry fungi and bacteria that can damage coral reefs.