Huge dust storm caught on satellite heading for the Americas

Hundreds of millions of tons of sand travel west from Africa every year

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 08 June 2021 19:26 BST

Tons of dust fall on Earth every year from space

A huge Saharan dust storm has been captured on satellite heading for the Americas.

Experts at NASA Earth Observatory say that the strong winds blew across Mali and Mauritania earlier this month, sweeping desert dust over Senegal and The Gambia and into the Atlantic.

The NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite on 4 June and by 7 June the dust cloud was seen moving through the central Atlantic region.

This storm comes one year after NASA satellites captured the largest dust storm for 20 years which covered the Caribbean Sea during June 2020.

During that storm, satellite and ground sensors measured the highest concentration of dust in the atmosphere since NASA’s Earth Observing System satellites were launched.

Scientists recently published their analysis of the “Godzilla” storm and explained how the dust is carried such a long way.

“The African easterly jet (stream) exports the dust from Africa towards the Atlantic region,” said study lead author Bing Pu, a geologist and atmospheric scientist at the University of Kansas, in a NASA statement.

“Then the North Atlantic subtropical high, which is a high-pressure system sitting over the subtropical North Atlantic, can further transport it towards the Caribbean region.

“The Caribbean low-level jet, along with the subtropical high, can further transport the dust from the Caribbean region towards the US.”

It is unclear how climate change will impact dust storms in the future.

Bing Pu’s team has argued that the storms could become more frequent as there will be warmer temperatures and less vegetation to keep Earth’s soil on the ground.

However, a team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have argued that changes in ocean temperatures could reduce prevailing wind speeds and the transport from Africa to the Americas.

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