An intense dust storm pushed sand and dust across western Africa and over the Atlantic Ocean in early July, 2014. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on July 2 at 12:20 UTC (12:20 p.m. local time; 8:20 a.m. EDT).
A dusty haze covers the entire region, and a very broad plume of light colored dust pours off of the coast of Mauritania. Tan streaks can be seen off Western Sahara (north) and smaller streaks appear under cloud cover off the coast of Senegal (south). The Cape Verde Islands lie under the haze. They also are in an area of sunglint, where the light of the sun is reflected off the waters almost directly back at the instrument, giving the area a silvery, mirror-like appearance. Wispy clouds streak across the skies in various directions, suggesting a highly unsettled wind pattern.
Dust originating in the Saharan Desert arrived in South America and parts of North America in mid-July. Hot, dry conditions can allow the formation of the Saharan Air Layer in the atmosphere, which frequently carries dust across the Atlantic into the Caribbean and to the Americas. The Sahara Desert is considered to be the major source of mineral dust on Earth.