Sahara Dust goes transatlantic

Satellites can help us understand large-scale features high up in the atmosphere and all over the world.

The transport of dust from the Sahara Desert across the Atlantic Ocean has a broad range of effects, many of which are still being investigated by researchers on both sides of the ocean.

The dust is clearly visible in videos from Meteosat-10 in the week beginning 23 June 2014. Dust can bring nutrients to the soil in the Amazon Basin. Researchers have found that some 40 million tonnes of dust arrives in the Amazon from the Sahara every year.

This video shows the dust, in pink, gradually dispersing as it crosses the ocean.

The increasing number of dust storms linked to desertification in the second half of the twentieth century caused scientists to wonder whether deposits from the Sahara could be dangerous to some plant and animal life. Bleaching of coral in the Caribbean has been linked with dust from the desert, and it can also cause blooms of particular kinds of algae.

The effect of dust on weather patterns is also being examined. Dust may reflect sunlight, reducing the sea surface temperature in the part of the ocean where Atlantic hurricanes normally begin. But on the other hand, dust particles can allow condensation of moisture in the atmosphere to take place more easily. The exact effect of dust on the formation of storms is still unclear.

You can check the progress of the dust for yourself in EUMETSAT’s real-time imagery.


About the Author

Ruth McAvinia

Ruth McAvinia

Learning Zone Writer

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