Global Dust July 2014

Global Dust Observations From Space Reveal Dramatic Declines

Our ability to observe and measure dust around the world is best served by the satellite fleet.

On 19 July 2014, this satellite shows the skies and their aerosols, according to Colin Seftor of the OMPS science team at NASA. The image maps the aerosol index for July 19, as measured by the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS) on the Suomi NPP satellite. The denser the aerosol level in the atmosphere, the darker the shade of orange.

Dust from the Sahara and Thar deserts, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Horn of Africa prominently shroud parts of the Middle East and North Africa, reaching out into the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Seasonal, agricultural fires also appear along the Atlantic coast of central Africa. That’s forest fire smoke in Siberia and air pollution in North America.

Regular stripe patterns across the oceans are an effect of sunglint—where sunlight is reflected off the water and directly back at the sensor. Gray areas are places where the satellite did not collect data that day. You should note that virtually no dust/aerosols are all are seen south of the equator!

Dust Decline Is Producing An Ocean Crisis

dust and productivity decline in oceans

Dust declines in most of the world’s ocean basins results in loss of ocean pasture productivity which in turn results in collapse of fish stocks.

Ocean environments are reliant on dust in the wind to deliver vital mineral nutrients especially iron to the 72% of this Blue planet that is ocean. The decline of dust being reported by NASA and other earth observers is reported on as if it is a boon for the lands of the world.

All the while it is a potential death knell for ocean pastures and the marine life those pastures sustain.  Here’s a link to how the role of dust in the wind works with pastures on land and at sea. More grass growing means less dust blowing.  And less dust means collapse of ocean productivity.

Here’s a recent video from NASA showing dust blowing around the globe.

Scientists began developing instruments that could monitor Earth’s ozone layer by observing how the atmosphere scattered certain wavelengths of ultraviolet (UV) light some 40 years ago. Now twenty years after starting those measurements, the boffins have figured out they can use the same observations to detect UV-absorbing aerosols in the air, such as volcanic ash, dust, smoke, and salt particles from stormy weather. Thus the aerosol index (AI) was born.

NASA scientific review shows global dust and aerosols were in dramatic decline during the 1990’s and the decline continues to this day.

This diminished dust is allowing more sunlight to reach the Earth’s surface over the past decade. That means less is reflected back into space resulting in more warming of land, seas, and atmosphere. The thinning of the blanket is shown by this trio of images based on satellite observations of aerosol optical thickness, a measurement that scientists use to describe how much the aerosols filter the incoming sunlight. Higher optical thickness (orange and red) means more sunlight blocking.

decline of dust 1990's

Decline of dust in the 1990’s. Darker blue reveals relatively larger diminishment of dust and aerosols.

The globes show average aerosol optical thickness for 1988-1991 (top), 2002-2005 (middle), and the change between the two time periods (bottom). Overall, the 1988-1991 image appears redder, a sign that aerosols were blocking more incoming sunlight; the 2002-2005 image has more light yellow areas.

In the bottom image, small pockets of red (increased aerosol optical thickness), mostly near land masses in the Northern Hemisphere, are far outnumbered by blue areas (decreased aerosol optical thickness).

The aerosol index is not a strict numerical measurement; that is, it does not count particles, but instead provides a qualitative measure of how dense aerosols may be over a given area. While it lacks some precision, it has the benefit of seeing aerosols over and around clouds.

With these measurements, researchers can examine the movement of aerosols over time and space, and even make some general assessments of trends. They can work backwards along a trail of airborne particles and figure out the source. And they can provide useful information for aviators who need to steer clear of debris like volcanic ash and ocean scientists who know that volcanic ash delivers life to ocean pastures in the form of vital mineral micro-nutrients.

A report in the journal Science in 2009 links the warming of Atlantic Ocean waters in recent decades to declines in airborne dust from African deserts.

Since 1980, the tropical North Atlantic has been warming by an average of a half-degree Fahrenheit (a quarter-degree Celsius) per decade. While that number may sound small, it can translate to big impacts on hurricanes, which are fueled by warm surface waters, said study team member Amato Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Evan and his colleagues had previously shown that African dust and other airborne particles can suppress hurricane activity by reducing how much sunlight reaches the ocean and keeping the sea surface cool. Dusty years predict mild hurricane seasons, while years with low dust activity — including 2004 and 2005 — have been linked to stronger and more frequent storms.

There is a global dust crisis!

Given that the collapse of global dust is due to high and rising CO2 greening the earth and making deserts out of ocean pastures it is imperative that we, human society, provide a remedy to the dying ocean ecosystems.

We take care of the ecosystems on land that we have damaged or are destroying. Why not in the oceans?

pink salmon haul

The Fish Came Back from Alaska to Oregon in historic abundances not seen in 100 years!

While the amount of dust in total that is being denied the oceans at large there are key and vital ocean pastures that can be saved, restored, and revived by giving back to them that mineral dust we deny them.

It’s not so difficult to accomplish.

Here’s what happened when we demonstrated this in the NE Pacific restoring and reviving the most vital ocean salmon nursery pasture. We simply returned a single boat load of dust, in payment for tens of thousands of boat loads of salmon we have taken.

It is better to give than to receive.  Read about it.  The fish came back!

Further reading:

Try this story about how the Bahamas have been formed by dust in the wind.


Ocean plant life slows down and absorbs less carbon NASA.