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NASA satellite captures Sahara Desert dust plume on the Atlantic Ocean

A dust plume from the Sahara Desert swirls over the Atlantic Ocean in this photo taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on July 26, 2022.

A dust plume from the Sahara Desert swirls on the Atlantic Ocean in this photo taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Aqua satellite on July 26, 2022.(Image credit: Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview)

Dust clouds haven’t looked this good.

July was an especially blustery month in Africa’s Sahara Desert, with great plumes of dust being drawn over the Atlantic towards america and the Caribbean. And NASA’s Aqua satellite was aware of the show.

Which consists of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), the satellite took this natural-color image of an enormous dust plume swirling off the Sahara on the ocean, stretching between your Canary Islands and Cabo Verde. Aqua is section of the international Earth Observing System (EOS) and studies the water cycle.

Related: New NASA chief scientist pledges an idea to renew agency’s Earth satellite fleet

Though this type of image was taken on July 26, Aqua along with other satellites captured many similar events through the entire month, indicating a far more active month than normal. However the Sahara dust plumes are normal some 182 million a great deal of dust blow over the Atlantic every year plus they play a significant role in Earth‘s climate system.

Because they travel through the air, the dust particles both absorb and reflect sunlight. That plays a part in the entire thermal regulation of the earth looked after creates dramatic sunsets, which were seen across Florida, Texas, and the Caribbean in the last month.

Dust plumes also affect cloud coverage and storm formation, particularly that of hurricanes. “Not merely does [the dust plume] contain dry air, but there’s typically a layer of high wind shear (opens in new tab) connected with it. Hurricanes hate both of these things,” University of Miami meteorologist Brian McNoldy told NASA (opens in new tab).

The upsurge in dust plumes in July could have contributed to the currently quiet hurricane season. Currently, there have only been three named storms in the Atlantic, that is about 41% of average. “That’s quiet, but things can change around in a blink of a watch with just one single hurricane,” said McNoldy. “If we’re still at 41 percent of average by the end of September, that might be an absolute sign of a quiet season.”

Dust not merely is important in Earth’s climate, but additionally its biological systems. It acts as a fertilizer of sorts the minerals in dust, like iron and phosphorus, are necessary for plants and phytoplankton. The Saharan dust, specifically, blows across to the Americas and is in charge of providing nutrients to biodiverse places just like the Amazon rainforest.

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Stefanie Waldek

Space.com contributing writer Stefanie Waldek is really a self-taught space nerd and aviation geek who’s passionate about everything spaceflight and astronomy. With a background in travel and design journalism, in addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree from NY University, she focuses on the budding space tourism industry and Earth-based astrotourism. In her leisure time, you will discover her watching rocket launches or finding out about at the stars, wondering what’s out there. Find out more about her just work at www.stefaniewaldek.com (opens in new tab).

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