In early February, strong winter winds raised massive dust storms across the Arabian Peninsula, but by mid-month the dust had settled. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this sparkling clear image of the Persian Gulf on February 12, 2012.
Swirls of tan, greens and peacock blue decorate the dark blue water of the Persian Gulf. Sediment accounts for at least part of the coloration, if not all of it. The inflow from the Tigris, Euphrates and Karun Rivers in the northern Gulf appear a deep tan color. Dust storms have also recently blown large quantities of sediment into the Gulf. As sediment disperses and settles, it appears to change hues, because the light reflectance characteristics change.
Another possible source of the brilliant colors may be phytoplankton. These chlorophyll rich microorganisms bloom when temperature, sunlight and nutrients are favorable. Dust can be a rich source of nitrogen, phosphorus and iron, as well as other nutrients, and thus may act as a fertilizer to stimulate blooms.
On the land surrounding the Persian Gulf, black lines have been overlaid to delineate country borders. The country with snow-capped mountains in the northeast portion of the image is Iran. Iraq lies in the northwest corner, sharing a border with Kuwait. The streaked sands of Saudi Arabia lie to the west of the Persian Gulf. Qatar and the island state of Bahrain sit between Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. The United Arab Emirates lies on the southern Gulf coast, and Oman fills the southeast corner of the image.