A graceful arc of Saharan dust is streaming off the coast of northwest Africa and sweeping out over the Atlantic Ocean and the Canary Islands in this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image from the Aqua satellite on February 18, 2004. Dust storms like this can be both helpful and harmful to different places and ecosystems. The dust acts like a fertilizer for ocean waters depleted of iron and other nutrients that marine plants need to grow, but it also can carry disease-causing bacteria and fungi, which damages coral reefs in the Caribbean. The dust itself can spread to North and South America and cause respiratory distress in people who are sensitive.
The high-resolution image provided above is 500 meters per pixel. The MODIS Rapid Response System provides this image at additional resolutions.
On March 10, 2007, thick plumes of dust blew off the west coast of Africa and over the Canary Islands. In this image, the tan dust strikes a strong contrast with the navy blue ocean. The dust plumes are thickest over the Canary Islands, almost thick enough to completely obscure the satellite’s view of them.