Sahara dust outbreak across the Atlantic

Sahara dust outbreak across the Atlantic

06 March 2004 00:56 UTC

Sahara dust outbreak across the Atlantic
Sahara dust outbreak across the Atlantic

On 3 March 2004, the massive storm formed a huge arc of thick dust that swept over the Canary Islands, where it dropped a significant amount of dust.

Last Updated

29 January 2021

Published on

05 March 2004

Every year, strong winds blowing over the Sahara lift hundreds of millions of tons of dust high into the sky over North Africa. Depending on the season, the dust may be blown across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe or over the Atlantic Ocean.

Carried aloft by trade winds, the heavier particles quickly drop back to earth. Those that survive the journey across the oceans are a hundred times smaller than the diameter of the finest human hair. The dust often reaches the Western Hemisphere, where it fertilizes bromeliads in Brazil; dirties windshields across the southeastern United States, and causes brilliant red sunsets across the American Southwest.

The dust normally arrives in the Caribbean by mid- June, and doesn't disappear until the autumn. Islanders see the results most vividly at sunset: the opalescent glow that ordinarily lights the sky in these regions becomes a muddy shade of burnt orange

The Meteosat-8 images from 3 to 10 March 2004 below show a major dust outbreak from Western Africa across the Atlantic. For the colour interpretation, please click on the interpretation link below the top images.

On 3 March 2004, the massive storm formed a huge arc of thick dust that swept over the Canary Islands, where it dropped a significant amount of dust. This event was captured by various satellites, including Meteosat-8 and NASA's Terra and Aqua.

On 5 March 2004, the dust, still thick and well visible in the satellite images, reached the Cape Verde Islands and the shores of Western Europe. In the following days, the dust crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached South America and the Caribbean Sea. During this process, the dust got thinner and thinner (smaller dust particles and smaller aerosol optical thickness) making it less visible in the satellite images. However, on 10 March 2004 large amounts of fine dust were still well visible in the area of the Gulf of Guinea.

 

Meteosat-8 Images

Met-8, 03 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 1: Met-8 RGB Composite, 03 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
 
Met-8, 03 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 2: Met-8 RGB Composite, 03 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Met-8, 04 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 3: Met-8 RGB Composite, 04 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
 
Met-8, 04 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 4: Met-8 RGB Composite, 04 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Met-8, 05 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 5: Met-8 RGB Composite, 05 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
 
 Met-8, 05 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 6: Met-8 RGB Composite, 05 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Met-8, 06 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 7: Met-8 RGB Composite, 06 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
 
Met-8, 06 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 8: Met-8 RGB Composite, 06 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Met-8, 07 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 9: Met-8 RGB Composite, 07 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
 
Met-8, 07 March 2004, 12:00 UTC&
Figure 10: Met-8 RGB Composite, 07 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Met-8, 08 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 11: Met-8 RGB Composite, 08 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
 
Met-8, 08 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 12: Met-8 RGB Composite, 08 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Met-8, 09 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 13: Met-8 RGB Composite, 09 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
 
Met-8, 09 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 14: Met-8 RGB Composite, 09 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Met-8, 10 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 15 Met-8 RGB Composite, 10 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
 
Met-8, 10 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
Figure 16: Met-8 RGB Composite, 10 March 2004, 12:00 UTC