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Dust storms off Baja California
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Dust storms off Baja California

December 7, 2010
Strong, dry winds blow plumes of dust from the arid lands of Baja California, Mexico and over the deep blue waters the Pacific Ocean on November 30, 2010 when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite passed over the region and captured this true-color image.

Santa Ana winds are extremely dry northwesterly winds having speeds in excess of 25 knots (46 kilometers/hour) and commonly gusting to more than twice this speed. Santa Ana season in Southern California and northern Baja California normally begins in early to mid November and continues through winter. The winds are known for the hot, dry weather (often the hottest of the year) that they bring, for the dust they carry into the surrounding waters, and are infamous for fanning regional wildfires.

The Santa Ana winds are often considered to be destructive, but they also have some positive effects. The strong, dry winds cause cold water to rise from the lower regions of the ocean, and this upwelling brings many nutrients to the surface which plays a role in sustaining local fisheries as well as nourishing phytoplankton levels, and thus increasing chlorophyll in the waters.

Baja California is one of the longest, most isolated peninsulas in the world, second only to the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is separated from the Mexican Mainland by the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez). The Gulf has been considered to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet, and it home to more than 5,000 species of macroinvertebrates. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


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