Dust blew off the west coast of Africa on April 13, 2006. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying onboard the Terra satellite took this picture the same day. In this image, a pale beige plume of dust sweeps off the west coast and over the ocean. Immediately off the coast, the water appears pale green. This coloration probably results from sediment. The countries of Western Sahara (currently controlled by Morrocco), Mauritania, and Senegal, from top to bottom, respectively, are depicted in the image. 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.
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