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June 27, 2011
One of the STS-106 crew members on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis used a handheld 70mm camera to photograph this image of Afghanistan dust/front winds in the upper Amu Darya Valley. The strong winds along the northern border of Afghanistan lofted thick, light brown dust into the air (top half of the view). In this desert environment land surfaces are not protected by vegetation from the effect of blowing wind. The central Asian deserts experience the greatest number of dust storm days on the planet each year. The sharp dust front shows that the dust has not traveled far, but has been raised from the surfaces in the view. Dust is entrained in the atmosphere by horizontal winds but also by vertical movements. Here the vertical component is indicated by the fact that the higher points along the dust front are each topped by a small cumulus cloud, which appear as a line of small white puffballs. Cumulus clouds indicate upward motion and here the air which has entrained the dust is lifting the air above to the level of condensation at each point where a small cloud has formed.

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