Huge Saharan Dust Cloud Could Bring Hazy Skies, Spectacular Sunsets to the United States
by Sara McGreevy/Smithsonianmag.com
An enormous plume of dust from the Saharan desert has blown 5,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean and will likely reach the Gulf Coast by the middle of this week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Every year, winds carry about 800 million metric tons of dust from North Africa across the Atlantic coast, a phenomenon known as the Saharan Air Layer, according to a statement from NASA’s Earth Observatory. So this plume isn’t altogether unusual—but “the size and visible impact of this particular plume makes it stand out,” reports Amanda Kooser for CNET.
The plume is clearly visible from space. NASA satellite images taken on June 18 showed that the expanse of dust stretched about 1,500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, according to the statement.
On Sunday, NASA astronaut Doug Hurley posted a photo of the plume as seen from the International Space Station to Twitter. “We flew over this Saharan dust plume today in the west central Atlantic. Amazing how large an area it covers!” Hurley says.