Where on Earth: Dust and Phytoplankton in Alaska

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What body of water is the dust moving over?

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/).

  • Image of Dust Plume in Gulf of Alaska coming from the Copper River valley taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, Aqua satellite in November 2017
  • Written by Katherine Porter
  • Designed by Dani Player
  • Music from Yesh Music (ASCAP)

A collage of satellite imagery. Text, Where on Earth?
A long trail of dust spills off a snow covered terrain over an adjacent sea. This satellite image shows a plume of dust blowing over a body of water. Which body of water is the dust moving over? A. The Gulf of Alaska. B. The Great Salt Lake. C. The Mediterranean Sea. D. The South Atlantic Ocean.
The correct answer is A, the Gulf of Alaska. Alaska is labeled in the image, with Prince William Sound nearby. Dust over the Gulf of Alaska photographed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Aqua Satellite. Scientists first reported major dust storms in southern Alaska in 1911. These storms generally occur in late fall, when river levels are low, snow has not yet fallen, and river mud is exposed to the wind.
NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of a dust plume coming from Alaska's Copper River valley in November 2017.
The dust is composed primarily of fine particles of rock that were pulverized by glaciers and then carried downstream in glacial meltwater.
Dust from storms like this eventually settles in the ocean, providing nutrients for phytoplankton and other marine life.
Zooming out from Alaska to the entire world in space. Music courtesy of Yesh Music. ASCAP.
Where on Earth?