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The dirt on atmospheric dust
22 June 2016
It might seem small, but atmospheric dust is a big deal. Consisting (mostly) of tiny pieces of metal oxides, clays and carbonates, dust is the single largest component of the aerosols in Earth's atmosphere, and it likely has a significant impact on the Earth's climate, as it effects a wide range of phenomena, including from temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean to the rate of snowmelt in the southwestern U.S. Dust may also affect hurricanes, as recent research based on data sets dating back to the 1950s suggests an inverse relationship between dust in the tropical North Atlantic and the number of Atlantic hurricanes during the past several decades.
Yet, while its impact on Earth's ecosystems is easy to detect, its presence in satellite imagery may not be.
Image credit: NOAA - This data map shows the presence of aerosols in the atmosphere based on data from the AVHRR and VIIRS sensors aboard NOAA polar-orbiting spacecraft.