Images from space show huge Saharan dust cloud crossing Mediterranean

Images from space show a huge Saharan dust cloud that has now engulfed southern Italy and Malta.

The satellite pictures show the plume – which is a mixture of sand and dust from the desert in North Africa – as it crosses the Mediterranean Sea.

Its recent presence into Europe has been linked to worsening air quality in the region.

Images from Copernicus Sentinel-3, the European Union’s earth observation satellite mission, show the Saharan dust plume covering Malta and the southern part of Italy on Tuesday.

It is forecast to move into Greece, where it will stay for a few days, before heading to Turkey and Cyprus.

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which monitors and forecasts air quality around the world, said it would continue to keep watch over the plume’s movements.

Last month, the cloud was seen covering Spain’s Canary Islands and Portugal from space as these areas contended with high dust concentrations in the air, with authorities advising people to not stay outside for extended periods of time.

Experts say tens of millions tonnes of dust is blown away from the Sahara Desert by strong seasonal winds a year.

Huge plumes head across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as towards Europe and elsewhere in Africa.

This dust can affect air quality – but also plays a crucial role in the natural world, absorbing and reflecting solar energy and fertilising ecosystems, according to Nasa Earth Observatory.

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