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Teachers shown how to use NASA data to observe dust storms with Giovanni

DUST Project is a model for teaching climate and climate change concepts

Teachers shown how to use NASA data to observe dust storms with Giovanni

The DUST Project examines dust storms originating in the Sahara Desert and other desert regions. The climate influences of desert dust, volcanic emissions, and atmospheric pollutants were discussion topics at this year’s project workshop.

Teachers shown how to use NASA data to observe dust storms with Giovanni


An idyllic “holler” in the Shenandoah Mountains became a laboratory from June 17-21 as teachers from Virginia’s Hampton Roads area partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists and education professors in the DUST Project, a NASA Innovations in Climate Education (NICE) project managed by Hampton University. Dianne Robinson and Barbara Maggie of Hampton University act as the Project’s Director and Manager, respectively.  The workshop took place at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, Virginia, adjacent to the mountains of Shenandoah National Park.


The basic concept of dust in Earth’s atmosphere was used at the workshop as the theme for developing teaching methods on the subjects of climate and climate change, for many different grade levels. Teachers at the workshop were shown, for example, how to demonstrate the accumulation of glacial ice in an ice core with layers of colored marshmallows and M&M candies (the latter representing ash from volcanic eruptions).  Corn starch tossed in the air and illuminated by a laser pointer showed how satellite-borne laser instruments detect dust clouds in the atmosphere.   At these and previous DUST Project workshops, NASA scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center have given presentations on the various satellites that observe dust and other atmospheric aerosols; the health effects of dust; how dust in the atmosphere reflects and scatters radiation from the Sun; and even how the atmospheric effects of huge volcanic eruptions and a massive asteroid impact led to the demise of the dinosaurs.


One of the key elements of DUST Project workshops is the NASA Giovanni data system, which provides easy access to several different satellite data products that can detect dust in the atmosphere.  James Acker of the NASA Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC) showed the teachers how Giovanni generates time-series data plots to detect the occurrence of Sahara dust storms, and then how the system can be used to create and modify data maps showing the extent and movement of these storms as they are transported over the Atlantic Ocean. At this year’s workshop, teachers examined Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data for the year 2006, and found a major dust storm occurred in March 2006. MODIS images of this dust storm are available from the NASA Earth Observatory.


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Last updated: Jun 24, 2013 11:04 AM ET