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Baja Dust Storm: Earth Image of the Week December 2, 2011
Satellite image of Baja California dust storm.
The NOAA-15 satellite, which took these images, will replace the older GOES-11 as the primary western U.S. weather satellite on December 6, 2011.
A burst of strong northeasterly winds blowing off the Mexican Mainland state of Sonora kicked up large dust clouds on Sunday, November 27, 2011.

The animated image to the right, from the NOAA-15 satellite, shows those clouds blowing from just southwest of the city of Hermosillo, across the Gulf of California to the width of the Baja California peninsula and beyond.

The enlarged view shows the dust clouds in much higher detail, through the MODIS sensor orbiting aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite.

While there are only meager land-based weather observations across that area of Mexico, comparison of satellite images reveal that the dust cloud was moving southwestward at speeds of approximately 15 to 20 knots (17 to 23 mph).

Experts at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) point out that the dust cloud filtered out the sun so much that temperatures dropped into the 80s from the 90s to near 100 degrees Fahrenheit due to its shading influence.

Areas of northern Mexico upwind from these images are suffering from the region’s worst drought in 70 years.

Crops that cover tens of thousands of acres have been lost due to the parched conditions, and officials estimate that about 450,000 cattle have died in withered pastures.

Full story and image: CIMSS