A big dust storm… in Alaska?

By Phil Plait | November 20, 2010 7:18 am

[Note: At the bottom of this post is a gallery of amazing NASA satellite images of the Earth!]

I need to make a list of the stuff I love about science, because I keep coming up with more. This time, it’s how surprising the Earth can be, even though we live on the dang thing.

For example, when I think of dust storms, I think of China and the Sahara or maybe the Dust Bowl in the U.S. I certainly don’t think of Alaska! But then, NASA’s Terra satellite set me straight:


[Click to 49thstatenate.]

Check that out! An actual series of dust storms blowing off the coats of Alaska! The cause was obvious in retrospect: as billions of tons of glacier flow languidly across the landscape, they crush the rocks underneath into powder called — get this — glacial flour. This gets deposited as mud underneath the glacier. When the glacier recedes a bit, the mud dries, and the wind can blow it away.

Tadaa! Dust storms off the coast of Alaska. Maybe Marian knows all about these, but for me, that’s a first.

The stuff I learn from NASA. Man.

Here are some other amazing images of the Earth from space! Use the thumbnails and arrows to browse, and click on the images to go through to blog posts with more details and descriptions.

[zenphotopress album=229 sort=sort_order number=100]



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