Windy conditions pushed plumes of tan dust across the Mediterranean Sea in late September, 2013. NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the region at 12:50 UTC (2:50 p.m.) on September 27, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument flying aboard to capture this true-color image of the continuing event.
A long band of camel-colored dust poured off the coast of Algeria and blew northwest across the Balearic Islands. The island of Majorca was heavily veiled as the dust blew towards the coast of Spain. The skies to the east of the plume remained clear, with Tunisia remaining dust-free.
Dust events are common in this area, and the dust that crosses Algeria often comes from the Sahara Desert, particularly the severely dry Bodele Depression and an area where Mauritania, Mali and Algeria converge. Dust storms inject iron into the oceans, potentially changing the nutrient balance of marine ecosystems and encouraging the growth of phytoplankton. They also reduce visibility for aircraft, irritate respiratory tissue in humans and animals, cause soil loss from the dry lands, and the abrasive effect of the sand can damage young crop plants.