Do you Know Where the Dirt in your Backyard Came From?

Photo credit: NOAA

The Saharan Air Layer brings several hundred million tons of dust from the Saharan Desert in Northern Africa to the Caribbean and the Americas every year. The dust accumulates on Caribbean beaches, brings nutrients to the Amazon Rain Forest in South America, and helps suppress hurricanes in the Atlantic. The dust could also impact coral reef ecosystems or algal blooms in the Caribbean sea.

Guiding Questions

  • How do particles (aerosols) get carried by the wind?
  • Which aerosols are products of human activity, which are naturally occuring?
  • What wind patterns do they follow?
  • What causes the wind to blow in different directions?
  • How could these affect plants, animals, and people?


Download a playlist for this module

  • Atmospheric Chemistry: GEOS-5 Model

    The Saharan Air Layer can be seen blowing from Northwestern Africa toward Central America.

  • Hurricane Season - 2017

    Saharan dust can impact tropical storms such as those seen in the satellite imagery from the 2017 hurricane season.

  • Winds: GEOS-5 Model

    The movement of these particulates would be impossible without winds to carry them.

External Resources

Cross-cutting Concepts

  • C2: Cause and Effect
  • C4: Systems and System Models

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS3.A: Natural Resources
  • PS1.B: Chemical Reactions