Dust storm visible from space

24 October 2002

MODIS satellite image acquired on 23 October showing dust storm sweeping across eastern Australia. © Geoscience Australia.

MODIS satellite image acquired on
23 October showing dust storm
sweeping across eastern Australia.
© Geoscience Australia

A dust storm that swept across parts of eastern Australia on 23 October was so big you could see it from 705 kilometres above the Earth. Geoscience Australia acquired the MODIS satellite image seen here at 10:55am (EST).

The dust storm is seen as a pale yellow band extending from the Gulf of Carpentaria, down across QLD, towards the coastline and tapering off towards Sydney. The high density section of this band was approximately 1,500 kilometres long, about 400 kilometres wide and about 2,500 metres high.

The dust storm was a result of drought conditions currently experienced in eastern Australia because of the 2002 El Nino event. Dust storms associated with El Nino events and other arid phases in Australia's climate are responsible for widespread blankets of wind blown dust or 'parna'. The thickest parna units in south-eastern Australia have been dated to arid conditions associated with the peak of the last ice age approximately 18,000 years ago.

The image seen here was acquired from NASA's Terra satellite using one of the on-board sensors called MODIS. It is thus referred to as MODIS imagery.

MODIS imagery such as this plays a vital role in the development of validated, global, interactive Earth system models able to predict global change.

Topic contact: media@ga.gov.au Last updated: October 4, 2013