Dust Off Canary Islands
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Dust Off Canary Islands

February 24, 2004
A graceful arc of Saharan dust streams off the coast of northwest Africa and sweeps out over the Atlantic Ocean and the Canary Islands in this true-color Aqua MODIS image from February 18, 2004. Dust storms like this can be both helpful and harmful to different places and ecosystems. The dust acts like a fertilizer for ocean waters depleted of iron and other nutrients that marine plants need to grow, but it can also carry disease-causing bacteria and fungi, which damages coral reefs in the Caribbean. The dust itself can spread to North and South America and cause respiratory distress in people who are sensitive. This image was taken just a day after Friday's image, which shows just how big this dust storm was. In the space of a day, the storm covered hundreds of kilometers and grew to a huge size, which brings into perspective how easily dust from these storms can be carried across entire oceans literally to the other side of the world.

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