From space, we can see a swirling brown mass making its way
across the Atlantic – dust
from the Sahara Desert – the largest hot desert in the world. It’s a normal
phenomenon. Every year, winds carry millions of tons of dust from North Africa,
usually during spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
June 2020 has seen a massive
plume of dust crossing the ocean. It’s so large it’s visible from one
million miles away in space.
Dust clouds this large can affect air quality in regions
where the dust arrives. The particles can also scatter the Sun’s light, making
sunrises and sunsets more vibrant.
Dust particles in the air are also known as aerosols. We can
measure aerosols, including dust, sea salt and smoke, from satellites and also
use computer models to study how they move with the wind.
Following the transport of dust from space shows us how one
of the driest places on Earth plays a role in fertilizing
the Amazon rainforest. There are minerals in Saharan dust, like
phosphorous, that exist in commercial fertilizers, helping seed the rainforest.
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