Strong winds once again carried a huge veil of sand across West African, then hundreds of kilometers over the North Atlantic Ocean in late January, 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on January 31 as it passed over the region.
Dust and haze covers, from north to south, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia. Most of the dust is blowing in a broad band off the Western Sahara-Mauritania border, then stretches over the ocean in a northward-curling arc. Light dust covers the Canary Islands (north) and hangs heavily over the islands of Cape Verde (south).
The source of the sand likely lies well inland. Much of the region, from Mali to Mauritania, and the Western Sahara contain large seas of fine sand. When strong winds blow – as they often do in this region – sand and dust easily rises and can be carried vast distances before dropping out of the atmosphere to come to rest.