Satellites Copernicus Sentinel and the Aeolus satellite revealed on Friday the large amounts of dust particles from the Sahara desert in North Africa, which is carried by the wind through the Atlantic Ocean and which “plays an important role” in the ecosystem, according to the European Space Agency (ESA) revealed this Friday.
ESA named this column of dust from the Sahara with the name of Godzilla, like the popular monster of Japanese science fiction cinema. It forms between late spring and early fall, peaking in late June through mid-August.
Godzilla’s path is closely monitored by the Copernicus Sentinel and Aeolus satellites. The latter is characterized by providing valuable information on the altitude and vertical extent of the aerosol layer – solid or liquid particles suspended in a gas – as they can determine the height at which the dust layer travels.
Data from the Copernicus Sentinel satellites and the Aeolus satellite show the large amounts of dust particles from the Sahara desert (ESA).
Information is extremely important to design air quality models used by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service to predict how far Godzilla will travel and how it will unfold, and therefore the effects it will have throughout its journey.
For its part, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite maps a multitude of air pollutants worldwide, Aeolus is the first satellite mission in acquiring Earth wind profiles on a global scale.
Aeolus also provides information on the vertical distribution of the aerosol and cloud layers. This combination of satellite data allows scientists improve your understanding of the Saharan air layer and enables forecasters to provide more accurate predictions of air quality.
The Aeolus satellite was designed to measure wind patterns on Earth. (AFP)
“Godzilla”, the dust cloud of the Sahara
At this time, large amounts of dust particles from the African desert are blown into the dry air by strong winds near the ground, as well as thunderstorms.
Dust can float for days or weeks, depending on how dry, fast and turbulent the air masses become. Subsequently, winds in the highest troposphere sweep dust across the Atlantic Ocean into the Caribbean and the United States.
Although this meteorological phenomenon occurs every year, ESA notes that the June 2020 peak is “unusual” due to its size and distance traveled.
According to NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, the dust spike was around 60-70 percent more dusty than an average outbreak, making it the most dusty event since records began about 20 years ago.
Godzilla, the popular Japanese monster. (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
Normally, the Sahara dust columns are dispersed in the atmosphere and sink into the Atlantic before reaching the Americas. However, this year the dense concentration of dust traveled approximately 8,000 kilometers and it comes close to the Caribbean and the southern United States.
Although the dust represents a health threat, causing cloudy skies and activating air quality alerts, ESA ensures that the Saharan who travels “plays an important role” in the ecosystem.
So, he claims that dust is a important source of nutrients that are essential for phytoplankton: microscopic marine plants that float on or near the ocean surface.
In addition, some of the minerals fall into the ocean, causing the formation of phytoplankton flowers on the ocean surface, which in turn provides food on which other marine life depends.
Dust is also essential for life in the Amazon, as it replenishes nutrients in the rainforest soils, nutrients that would otherwise be depleted by frequent rain in this tropical region.
It was also shown that layers of dry and dusty air suppress the development of hurricanes and storms in the Atlantic, because tropical storms need warm ocean waters and warm, humid air to form.
“If a storm develops, it would collide with the dry and dusty air layers of the Sahara dust cloud, preventing it from growing further,” they concluded from the European Space Agency.