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The NASA map uses satellite and sensor data to show particles of dust, water and smoke in the atmosphere of dust storms, hurricanes and forest fires.
USA TODAY

There's something in the air: from sources like forest fires, car exhausts and yes, even feces, tiny particles fly into our bodies with almost every breath. This reminder is courtesy of NASA, whose Earth Observatory last week offered a stunning map highlighting "the mish-mash of particles dancing and whirling through the atmosphere."

The agency's satellites and sensors launched aerosols on August 23, which were swirled into climates around the world, from smoke from California forest fires to sea salt thrown up by raging cyclones in the Pacific Ocean.

A model called The Goddard Earth Observing System Forward Processing uses data-driven equations to generate the visualization. Aerosols on the map, all color coded, indicate important events that took place on that August day.

The raging forest fires that destroyed parts of California produced black carbon particles that blushed red on the map. This red glow also appears over Central Africa, this time from deliberate fires started by farmers to preserve pasture and farmland, the agency said.

Sea salt aerosols that appear as blue swirling near Hawaii as Hurricane Lane approached the state. Larger blue swirls point to sea salt, which was whirled up by the twin typhoons Soulik and Cimaron, which were approaching South Korea and Japan at that time, the agency said.

Purple clouds representing dust particles indicate strong winds in both the Sahara and China Taklamakan Desert and the Gulf of Oman

Some aerosols, such as smoke from a fire or volcanic ash, are visible to the naked eye. Particles can also be "from construction sites, dirt roads, fields, chimneys, or fires," noted the Environmental Protection Agency.

View NASA visualiz

Follow Josh Hafner on Twitter: @joshhafner

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