October 6, 2013 - Dust storm off Tunisia (afternoon overpass)

Dust storm off Tunisia (afternoon overpass)

In late September, 2013 a fan of fine tan dust blew from Tunisia and covered the blue waters of the Gulf of Gabes. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a true-color image of the event from space on September 29 at 12:35 UTC (1:35 p.m. Central European Time).

Thickening clouds in the northwest corner of the image may indicate an incoming front or storm, which may have brought increasingly gusty winds to the region. The tan-colored dust of this region, which has been described as “fine as flour” by tourists, is easily lifted aloft by even moderately strong winds. Indeed, according to Weather Underground wind speeds at the city of Sfax on that date topped out at only 10 mph (16 km/h). Sfax is located on the southeastern coast of Tunisia on the Gulf of Gabes, roughly west of the southern tip of the elongated form of the Kerkennah Islands.

The source of the swirling cloud of sand is not precisely clear, as the veils appear quite broad and thin over the land in this image. However, the thickest plume of sand is found just east of the border between Tunisia (west) and Libya (east), suggesting that at least one source would be found in this borderland region.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 9/29/2013
Resolutions: 1km (84.1 KB), 500m (285.6 KB), 250m (719.2 KB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC