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Saharan Dust Crosses the Atlantic

Saharan Dust Crosses the Atlantic

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.

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption by Michon Scott.