Questions for ‘Dust creates deserts in the sky’

dust storm

The light spot depicts a dust storm in the Bodélé Depression. Such storms hurl dust high into the atmosphere where it may travel across oceans.

Jacques Descloitres/MODIS Rapid Response Team/NASA GSFC

To accompany feature ‘Dust creates deserts in the sky’


Before Reading

1.    What is a desert? Find three deserts on a map of the world. What do these places have in common?

2.    We often think that a dusty house is a dirty house. But dust and dirt are not the same. Look up the definitions for the two words. What are the similarities and differences between the two?

During Reading

1.    Why did Richard Washington and his companions travel to the Sahara in early 2005?

2.    Where is the Bodélé Depression, and why is it important?

3.    What is “cosmic dust”?

4.    Name two pieces of evidence Joseph Prospero used to figure out the source of the sodium, potassium and calcium showing up in the air above the ocean.

5.    What is the Saharan Air Layer and where can it be found?

6.    What is Nimbus-7 and what does it measure?

7.    What is the significance of the ridges on the northern edge of the Bodélé Depression?

8.    What did Washington learn from the March 10 storm he encountered?

9.    What did Washington find when he used an electron microscope to look at rock from the Bodélé Depression?

10.  Where does dust from the Sahara travel in winter?

After Reading

1.    Consider those three deserts you named before you read the article. Based on what you have read, do you think that any deserts other than the Sahara might be sources of dust for faraway places on the globe? Explain why you decided that.

2.    To study the Bodélé Depression, Washington and his team had to drive a long way to a remote region and endure a powerful storm that destroyed their camp. They also got to discover things that nobody knew before. Would you have liked to have gone on that trip? Explain your reasoning. How else might you have studied that region? Explain your answer.


1.    The Bodélé Depression can cough up 700 million kilograms of dust on a single stormy day. An average female African elephant weighs 2,720 kilograms. How many elephants-worth of dust can be created by a storm in the Bodélé Depression?

2.    The average U.S. car now weighs 4,000 pounds. How many cars’ worth of dust can be created on that same stormy day in the Bodélé Depression?