A massive sandstorm blowing off the northwest African desert has blanketed hundreds of thousands of square miles of the eastern Atlantic Ocean with a dense cloud of Saharan sand. The massive nature of this particular storm was first seen in this SeaWiFS image acquired February 26, 2000 when it reached over 1000 miles into the Atlantic.
These storms and the rising warm air can lift dust 15,000 feet or so above the African deserts and then out across the Atlantic, many times reaching as far as the Caribbean where they often require the local weather services to issue air pollution alerts as was recently the case in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Recent studies by the U.S.G.S. have linked the decline of the coral reefs in the Caribbean to the increasing frequency and intensity of Saharan Dust events. Additionally, other studies suggest that Sahalian Dust may play a role in determining the frequency and intensity of hurricanes formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.
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