Sahara dust outbreak across the Atlantic

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Every year strong winds blowing over the Sahara desert lift hundreds of millions of tons of dust high into the sky over North Africa.

Date & Time
06 March 2004 00:56 UTC
Satellites
Meteosat-8

Depending on the season, the dust may be blown across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe or over the Atlantic Ocean.

More information and detailed analysis of the feature can be found in the In Depth section.

 

In Depth

Jump to images

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
RGB Composite
IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8
Medium Resolution (673 KB)
Full Resolution (4 MB)
Colour Interpretation
Met-8, 03 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Medium Resolution (658 KB)
Full Resolution (3 MB)
Colour Interpretation

Met-8, 04 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8
Medium Resolution (669 KB)
Full Resolution (4 MB)
Met-8, 04 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Medium Resolution (647 KB)
Full Resolution (3 MB)

Met-8, 05 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8
Medium Resolution (673 KB)
Full Resolution (4 MB)
 Met-8, 05 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Medium Resolution (652 KB)
Full Resolution (3 MB)

Met-8, 06 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8
Medium Resolution (673 KB)
Full Resolution (4 MB)
Met-8, 06 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite<
NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Medium Resolution (643 KB)
Full Resolution (3 MB)

See also:

Dust storm over Western Africa and the Canary Islands (03 March 2004)
Large Sand Dust Clouds over the Eastern Atlantic (09 March 1998)

Met-8, 07 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8
Medium Resolution (673 KB)
Full Resolution (24 MB)
Met-8, 07 March 2004, 12:00 UTC&
RGB Composite
NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Medium Resolution (636 KB)
Full Resolution (3 MB)

Met-8, 08 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8
Medium Resolution (653 KB)
Full Resolution (4 MB)
Met-8, 08 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Medium Resolution (625 KB)
Full Resolution (3 MB)

Met-8, 09 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8
Medium Resolution (660 KB)
Full Resolution (4 MB)
Met-8, 09 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6
Medium Resolution (627 KB)
Full Resolution (3 MB)

Met-8, 10 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
IR12.0–IR10.8, IR10.8–IR8.7, IR10.8
Medium Resolution (641 KB)
Full Resolution (4 MB)
Met-8, 10 March 2004, 12:00 UTC
RGB Composite
NIR1.6, VIS0.8, VIS0.6&
Medium Resolution (620 KB)
Full Resolution (3 MB)
 

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