(Gray News) – Earth does some amazing things.
This week’s photo from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows a massive dust cloud from the Sahara Desert blanketing the Republic of Cabo Verde, some 350 miles off the western coast of Africa.
The dry, dusty air mass forms over the 3.5 million-square-mile desert during late spring, summer and early fall and is known as the Saharan Air Layer.
Because it sometimes travels all the way across the Atlantic to North and South America, it influences the weather and the environment.
“When winds are especially strong, the dust can be transported several thousand miles, reaching as far as the Caribbean, Florida and the U.S. Gulf Coast,” the NOAA website says.
If there’s enough Saharan dust during hurricane season, it prevents tropical storms from getting started or gaining strength.
“It can also be transported as far as the Amazon River Basin, where minerals in the dust replenish nutrients in rainforest soils that are continually depleted by tropical rains,” according to NOAA.
The pictures were captured by NOAA-20′s VIIRS instrument, which scans the entire Earth twice per day, taking high-resolution satellite imagery of clouds, storms and particles suspended in the atmosphere.