The west-blowing winds that once carried sailing ships from the Old World to the New still carry a trans-Atlantic traveler west. Large clouds of dust routinely blow from the Saharan Desert over the Atlantic Ocean in the late spring, summer, and early fall when strong winds blow across the Sahara Desert. The winds sweep dust across the ocean, depositing African soil in both North and South America and the Caribbean. The dry, dusty air is called the Saharan Air Layer, and it can weaken tropical cyclones over the Atlantic Ocean.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this image of dust in the Saharan Air Layer over the Cape Verde Islands on June 20, 2010. The tan-orange airborne dust is blowing from West Africa. The bulge-shaped front edge of the dust storm extends hundreds of kilometers west of the Cape Verde Islands.
- Dunion, J. (2010, March 17). What is the Saharan Air Layer? Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Accessed June 21, 2010.
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This image originally appeared on the Earth Observatory. Click here to view the full, original record.