Dust storm off West Africa
A large, swirling mass of dust, visible on the left portion of the image, is blowing from the Western Sahara into the Atlantic Ocean. The islands at the top of the image are a part of the Canary Islands, a possession of Spain. The landmass on the right side of the image is North Africa, including the territory and country of Western Sahara (currently under the control of Morocco) and Mauritania, respectively. Dust storms occur when very strong winds carry sand from the erg, or sand dune deserts, of the Sahara. Dust storms are a naturally occurring phenomenon and may “fertilize” the oceans and even the Amazon rain forest by carrying and depositing minerals over great distances. However, they are often exacerbated by agriculture practices that contribute to soil erosion- a process called desertification. Projects are currently underway to remedy this problem by creating barriers to block to movement of sand and by planting vegetation to keep sand in place.