A Martian skyscape greeted many across the UK and Europe in March as Saharan dust turned the skies orange. While car wash owners rubbed their hands following this messy visit, which left residue on cars and windows, the spectacle isn’t that uncommon.
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The Sahara produces the most dust globally, which is blown around and spread widely, especially during spring when seasonal winds rake the desert. In fact, trade winds can even carry Saharan more than 6000 miles across the Atlantic, where some 22 million tons reach the Amazon.
The Saharan dust is a rich source of minerals like iron and phosphorus that feed rainforests. Every year, the Saharan dust adds about the same amount of phosphorus to the Amazon that’s lost to floodwaters replenishing the land’s nutrients for plant growth.
The natural fertilizer:
Phosphorous, along with nitrogen, potassium, and other micronutrients are essential minerals needed to support vegetation. In Agriculture, these minerals are commonly used in fertilizers.
Dust also fertilizes microscopic phytoplankton in the ocean, tiny algae that absorb a ton of CO2. After phytoplankton dies, their remains sink to the ocean floor, where they lock up the carbon, protecting our climate.