Dust mixed with smoke across central Africa in early January 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on January 9, 2011. Red dots indicate hotspots associated with fires.
Dust from the Bodele Depression, northeast of Lake Chad, blew toward the southwest, leaving dust over the lake and parts of Niger and Nigeria. At the same time, fires burned across central Africa (likely set for clearing agricultural land) and mingled smoke with the dust.
Saharan dust often travels across the Atlantic Ocean. Although the dust can cause respiratory irritation and coral damage, it also provides valuable soil to the New World. In fact, a 2006 study found that Amazon rainforest owes much of its soil to the Bodele Depression.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.