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Saharan dust over the Atlantic Ocean
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Saharan dust over the Atlantic Ocean

February 26, 2012
A strong Harmattan wind carried clouds of dust thousands of kilometers across West Africa and the Northern Atlantic Ocean in early February 2012. Blowing south from the Sahara desert, the dry and dusty seasonal trade wind deposited thick layers of dust on sidewalks and shop windows, and caused the grounding more than a dozen flights by February 8, 2012, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true color image.

In this image, white clouds float above the yellow-brown cloud of Saharan dust. In the northeast section of the image, the dust interacts with the Cape Verde Islands, which are located about 570 kilometers off the coast of West Africa. The flow of wind become disrupted as it hits the mountainous peaks, and becomes turbulent as it passes the islands. This turbulent wind flow is etched in the clouds on the leeward side of the islands, as well as in the tan airborne dust.

The Harmattan is a strong trade wind which arises in Sahara Desert and blows south across West Africa in the winter months (November to March). Heavy dust storms are common in the region during this time, and residents must adapt to the disruptions that come with heavy dust and sand. This storm, which began on February 6, has the distinction of being the worst sandstorm in this area in two years.

Credits: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC


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