ISS016-E-005526 (21 Oct. 2007) --- Dust plumes, Baja California, Mexico are featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 16 crewmember on the International Space Station. A major dust plume and several minor plumes were raised during the strong, dry Santa Ana winds of October 2007. The light brown dust was transported west out to the Pacific Ocean (top right). According to meteorologists, Santa Ana winds, because they are warm, dry and strong, reduce soil moisture and generate frequent dust storms such as this. On this occasion, the Santa Anas supported the outbreak of fires in southern California resulting in significant damage to homes in hilly, wooded country. Dust plumes are known to start from relatively small, dust-prone areas. Here the plumes rise from the Real del Castillo agricultural valley--25 miles long, and part of Mexico's wine-producing region--surrounded by rocky hills in northern Baja California. Specifically, the dust is rising from spreads of loose sediment known as alluvial fans. Small streams from the local hills carry sediment with every rainstorm and deposit it at the foot of small canyons on the east side of the valley. It is notable that the vegetated farmland itself--the small rectangular pattern on the valley floor--protects the soil from the wind and is not producing dust plumes.
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