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Dust from Africa, July 21 - 28, 2020


Dust from the Sahara desert gets picked up each summer by strong wind disturbances called easterly waves. Sometimes, like this week in July 2020, the cloud of dust moves across the Atlantic Ocean reaching as far as the U.S. East Coast. The FV-3 Chem - a Global Systems Laboratory experimental version of the FV-3 (Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere Dynamical Core) Model created by NOAA Global Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) - shows fine dust as milligrams per square meter in the entire vertical column of air. A number of different satellites are able to detect dust as well but the computer-simulated models can depict what satellites often cannot.


Dust from the desert provides a huge portion of the organic matter necessary for the first trophic level of the marine food chain in that latitudinal belt of the Atlantic Ocean. Dust can be harmful to human lung health and can affect populations in the Caribbean and the Eastern U.S. On the positive side, the dust also oftens stifles hurricane formation as it passes over the “hurricane nursery,” an area near Cape Verde, Africa where the easterly waves eventually become hurricanes as they move across the Atlantic. The dust makes the air much dryer and hurricanes cannot survive dry air.

Technical Backstory

This video was made by the Global Systems Laboratory after a request from OAR communications for a story on FV-3 Chem. The data comes from the GSL FV-3 Chem page - here.


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Additional Versions

In addition to this rendered Earth view of dust from Africa, there is a flat map and rendered view with a gray background. These versions were created as part of our iterative process in coming to the final product.

Flat Map View

Rendered View

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