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A NASA astronaut has shared a startling image of a huge dust plume making its way across the skies towards North and South America.
Colonel Doug Hurley, who is currently on board the International Space Station, took the snap of the globe in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
He wrote on Twitter: "We flew over this Saharan dust plume today in the west central Atlantic. Amazing how large an area it covers!"
The dust plume is expected to hit the Caribbean this week as it was swept off the African continent during fierce winds.
We flew over this Saharan dust plume today in the west central Atlantic. Amazing how large an area it covers! pic.twitter.com/JVGyo8LAXI
- Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) June 21, 2020
The plume isn't a rare occurence and is scientifically known as Saharan Air Layer. It typically forms from late spring (in the Northern Hemisphere) through early fall and is pushed by the wind into the Atlantic Ocean every three to five days.
CNN Meteorologist Haley Brink said: "Every so often, when the dust plume is large enough and trade winds set up just right, the dust can travel thousands of miles across the Atlantic and into the US."
When it arrives on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, it will cause the sky to be a bit more milky, the air will be a lot drier and anyone with dust allergies will be having a field day (and not in a good way). While it might cause a a few issues for humans, it's incredibly beneficial for the environment.
The nutrient rich dust helps fertilise soil in the Amazon and maintain beaches in the Caribbean.
Colin Seftor, NASA atmospheric scientist, said they have been watching the plume generate in intensity over the past few days.
"The animation runs from June 13 to 18 and shows a massive Saharan dust cloud that formed from strong atmospheric updrafts that was then picked up by the prevailing westward winds and is now being blown across the Atlantic and, eventually over North and South America," Seftor said.
"The dust is being detected by the aerosol index measurements from the Suomi-NPP Suomi NPP satellite' s Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) data overlaid over visible imagery from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS)."
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