NASA’s extraordinary video shows how the Sahara fertilises the Amazon

For the first time ever a video shows how Saharan dust is transported throughout the atmosphere and contributes to fertilising the Amazon and Caribbean.

Unique and incredible 3-dimension pictures show for the first time how the Saharan dust is moved and transported throughout the Atlantic Ocean and finally deposited in the Amazon forest. It is dust rich in phosphorus that helps to fertilise one of the planet’s most important forests.




It is a work that started in 2007 and was completed thanks to data collected from NASA’s satellite Calipso (Cloud Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite), which showed an estimation of 27.7 million tonnes of dust that settles in the Amazon every year.



“We know that dust is very important in many ways. It is an essential component of the Earth system. Dust will affect climate and, at the same time, climate change will affect dust. As researchers, we ask ourselves two basic questions: How much dust is transported? And how does climate change affect the amount of dust that travels across the Atlantic?” said Hongbin Yu, atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland and leading author of the study.




Estimates show an amount of dust able to transport 22,000 tonnes of phosphorus each year, i.e. the same quantity that is lost due to rain and land leaching. The Saharan dust represents a sort of natural fertilisation, essential for the survival of our planet’s lung. Results are part of a broader research, an environment remote sensing that will help understand the role of dusts on climate, both on a local and global level.

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