Geo Week News

April 29, 2015

Featured Video: LiDAR Shows How Saharan Dust Feeds the Amazon Rainforest

lidar scan of saharan dust

From 2007-2013, NASA’S CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol LiDAR and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation) used LiDAR to measure how much dust travels across the ocean from the Saharan Desert to the Amazon rainforest.

“An average of 27.7 million tons of dust per year – enough to fill 104,980 semi trucks – fall to the surface over the Amazon basin.” The phosphorus portion of that dust is estimated at 22,000 tons per year and provides an essential nutrient for plant growth. 

Dust fertilizes the Amazon. Counterintuitive, but true.

Click below for a gorgeous 3D-animated video, and more information about the odd connection between a dry place and a lush one, as well as the oddly strong influence of dust on our global climate. (For even more details, see NASA’s writeup at the Godard center website.)


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