This is supercool: NASA has a Global Modeling and Assimilation Office that can take satellite data and run in through computer graphics software, creating stunning visualizations of what's going on on our planet without those pesky clouds getting in the way. This month they released this video of their "2017 Hurricanes and Aerosols Simulation," which tracked tiny particles--smoke from wildfires, dust from the Sahara, sea salt from the oceans--to show you how these contribute to weather patterns:
To explain what you're seeing:
This visualization uses data from NASA satellites, combined with mathematical models in a computer simulation allowing scientists to study the physical processes in our atmosphere. By following the sea salt that is evaporated from the ocean, you can see the storms of the 2017 hurricane season.
During the same time, large fires in the Pacific Northwest released smoke into the atmosphere. Large weather patterns can transport these particles long distances: in early September, you can see a line of smoke from Oregon and Washington, down the Great Plains, through the South, and across the Atlantic to England.
Dust from the Sahara is also caught in storms sytems and moved from Africa to the Americas. Unlike the sea salt, however, the dust is removed from the center of the storm. The dust particles are absorbed by cloud droplets and then washed out as it rains.
Advances in computing speed allow scientists to include more details of these physical processes in their simulations of how the aerosols interact with the storm systems.