Interpretation of Dust Clouds using Visible and Infrared Satellite Images

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Black and white visible and infrared satellite images are being used with decreasing frequency to observe dust clouds. Multispectral Red/Green/Blue(RGB) images are replacing them.

Published: 2 March 2010

However, knowledge of how to interpret the black and white products is important for several reasons. First, there are some regions for which satellites do not have the requisite multispectral channels. Second, interpretation of the multispectral products can be complex as there are often several input channels. Understanding of simple visible and infrared images of dust can make later understanding of multispectral products easier.

In this module, we observe the varying appearance of dust clouds over land vs. sea, and during day vs. night. We notice how dust clouds sometimes can appear seemingly out of nowhere, only to 'vanish' a few hours later.

After viewing the module, the user should be able to use visible and infrared images to observe dust clouds. The user will realise that there are major limitations in this capability, due to varying surface backgrounds and radical changes in dust cloud appearances depending on time of day. It should enable them to appreciate the value of RGB dust products introduced in a later lecture.

Pre-requisites: basic knowledge of visible and infrared satellite images.

Category Language Difficulty Audio Duration Author
Atmosphere English Basic 45 min Thomas Lee


Interpretation of Dust Clouds using Visible and Infrared Satellite Images presentation (PDF, 6 MB)

Interpretation of Dust Clouds using Visible and Infrared Satellite Images recording (ZIP, 132 MB) 

Next-Generation Weather Satellite Demonstration Project (NRL)

ePort (EUMeTrain)



Walter D. Wilkerson, 1991: Dust and Sand Forecasting in Iraq and Adjoining Countries. Air Weather Service, TN 91/001, Scott Air Force Basis, Illinois.

S. D. Miller, 2003: A consolidated technique for enhancing desert dust storms with MODIS. Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 30, No. 20, 2071.

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