In the southern Sahara Desert, a gap between mountain ranges makes for a natural wind tunnel. Situated within this wind tunnel, Chad’s Bodele Depression is the site of frequent dust storms.
In early December 2011, dust plumes blew out of the depression toward the southwest. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on December 9, 2011. The pale dust plumes are easy to spot against the darker tan background of the southern Sahara. The plumes generally arise from discrete points (image upper right).
The dust blew in the direction of Lake Chad, which has dwindled in recent decades. While some of the dust may settle there, particles from the Bodele Depression can travel much farther—sometimes across the Atlantic Ocean. A study published in 2006 found that regular helpings of Bodele dust have fertilized Amazon forests.