Windy weather brought clouds of dust to the Canary Islands on April 28, 2010. The thin layer of yellow-brown dust masks the Atlantic Ocean in this photo-like image, taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Of the islands shown, Gran Canaria was under the thickest cloud of dust. The large image, which covers a wider area, shows that the dust blew out of the Sahara Desert and moved both north and west over the ocean.
Dust plays an important role in ocean ecosystems. Dust is a source of iron, a key nutrient for tiny plant-like organisms—phytoplankton—that grow in the sun-lit surface waters of the ocean. Phytoplankton are the base of the marine food chain.
The large image provided above is the highest-resolution version of the image. The image is available in additional resolutions from the MODIS Rapid Response Team.
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.