Dust Storm off Morocco

Dust Storm off Morocco

Dust plumes hundreds of kilometers long blew off the Moroccan coast on February 10, 2008. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of the dust plumes mixing with clouds over the Atlantic Ocean the same day.

In this image, two largely parallel dust plumes blow off the coast. The northeast plume is more intense—thick enough in places to completely hide the water below. The other plume is thinner and shows faint wave patterns near the coast. In the northwest, the plumes thin and mingle, becoming one diffuse plume that blends with the clouds. Cloud cover nearly surrounds the dust plumes, and the clouds are especially heavy in the east.

Because clouds obscure much of Morocco’s land surface in this image, it does not show all the source points for the dust plumes. Some source points, however, appear just west of the clouds, especially for the thicker dust plume. Compared to neighboring countries to the south and east, Morocco is more mountainous and lacks the vast sand seas common in Mauritania and Algeria. According to the CIA world fact book, however, Morocco faces desertification from overgrazing, damage to vegetation, and farming in marginally productive areas. Stress on the land surface could contribute to dust storm formation.

You can download a 250-meter-resolution KMZ file of the dust storm suitable for use with Google Earth.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of the MODIS Rapid Response team. Caption by Michon Scott.