Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I've been through the desert on a horse with no name, which then carried me from the Sahara to the Amazon

Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Scientific Visualization Studio
There's a lot we can learn from Earth observing satellites.  For instance, the dust from the Sahara desert, the world's largest desert, has been found to travel through the atmosphere, making its way across the ocean and settling down to fertilize the Amazon rainforest.  That's quite a journey, and it probably seems a bit baffling to think that the material from a desert can then help to sustain all the diverse organisms that live in the world's largest rainforest.

A team of researchers have recently provided estimates of the amount of dust that makes the journey to the Amazon.  Of the 182 million tons of dust that gets lofted out of Africa, some 27.7 million tons of that same dust then finds its way to the Amazon rainforest.  The same team of researchers that made this discovery have also announced that the phosphorous within the Saharan dust fertilizes the rainforest.  Some 22,000 tons of phosphorous are estimated to rain down to the Amazon, far from their Saharan origin.  The researchers estimate that this influx of phosphorous makes up for the all the phosphorous lost to erosion.  Our world is truly dynamic.  Our fleet of Earth observing satellites have so much to teach us about our home.

Here is a fantastic video from NASA explaining these new discoveries:

For more information about this research, check out the NASA Press Release.

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