Saharan dust that blew off the coast of Africa days earlier crossed the Atlantic and neared South America on June 1, 2010. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image the same day.
Although thin, the dust is still discernible off the South American Coast. It forms a large arc moving in a clockwise direction, passing roughly 300 kilometers (200 miles) northeast of Georgetown, Guyana. In the south, thin lines of clouds fringe both sides of the plume, but the clouds dissipate toward the north.
Saharan dust traversing the Atlantic is nothing new. Although dust from the Sahara often thins before reaching the Western Hemisphere, dust plumes may remain visible throughout their entire journeys. Although dust plumes can pose hazards such as Caribbean coral death, dust also provides benefits. Amazon soils owe much of their existence to Saharan dust.
Saharan dust hovered over the Atlantic for several days in mid-January 2008. This image shows two different areas of dust plume activity. Immediately off the coasts of Western Sahara and Mauritania, a series of tan dust plumes blow in predominantly straight lines toward the northwest. Farther west, a large, diffuse plume of dust hangs over the Atlantic Ocean
Floridians looking for a break from hurricane season in late July 2005 were in for a change, though it wasn’t necessarily what they wanted: Saharan dust. By July 19, a massive dust storm had crossed the Atlantic towards southern Florida. This image, captured by the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) instrument, shows wide swaths of the planet. On the right is the Sahara Desert, Earth’s biggest dust-producing machine. In the far upper left is North America, this dust storm’s likely target. In the center of the picture, intermixed with clouds, is the swirling dust storm, nearly the size of the United States.