Dust Decline Is Dire News For Our Blue Planet

Dust Decline Is Dire News For Our Blue Planet

Dust blowing from the Sahara in great dust storms known as ‘Haboobs’ like the one seen in the photo above is in catastrophic decline reported in Journal Nature.

Dust that blows in the wind is every bit as vital to life on this planet as is rain that blows in the wind. Today we are in the depths of one of the worst droughts of dust in all of geologic time and the dust decline / drought is getting worse!

Dust from the Sahara Desert in North Africa provides 50% or more of the worlds dust, the next largest source is from the Gobi desert of Asia. Dust blowing in the wind almost everywhere is in decline. That dust may seem like a problem when you are engulfed in a dust storm in North Africa or Beijing but it is a blessing to the world’s ecology on land and especially at sea around the world.

indian ocean pasture collapse

Dateline Jan. 2016: Indian Ocean plankton in rapid decline threatening all of ocean life, the crisis is repeated and reported around the globe. Click to read more…

Dust is the other side of rain and a vital part of Natures Yin & Yang for our worlds green plants, especially ocean plankton, that convert CO2 from its dangerous form into life itself. The common thread in this burgeoning disaster is seen in frequent reports of sea life that are simply starving to death as once productive ocean pastures are turning into lifeless blue deserts. This is made so by impact of our high and rising CO2 which is resulting in the worsening dearth of dust on this blue planet via a multiplicity of mechanisms and feedbacks.

New Parts and Particles In The Story of Dust

SaharaDust_for_Amazon1

Dust blowing from the Sahara delivers hundreds of millions of tonnes of dust each year that sustains the Amazon Rainforest thousands of miles away in South America… on the way far more of that Saharan dust nourishes the ocean pastures of the Atlantic Ocean. click to read more

These new authors begin by explaining how much dust is blowing in the wind from the Sahara depends on the strength of a particular Saharan wind called the ‘Harmattan’, which accelerates when it blows across the mountain massifs of Northwest Africa. That dust in the wind delivers vital nutrients that plant life requires and can also block or reflect sunlight preventing or sustaining heating of the surface ocean and lands.

Now a newly expanded edition of the story of dust the researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego reveal how climate change will alter its vital global role. Their work is appearing in the March 24 issue of the journal Nature. 

Scripps Oceanography climate researcher Amato Evan and colleagues address the causes of year-to-year fluctuations in the transport of African dust and describe their methodology for estimating how dust has been transported over the past 150 years. He and colleagues from the National Center for Scientific Research in France proclaim that in our changing world, dust emissions from the Sahara, already greatly diminished will diminish even more over time. This will be seen in dire ocean consequences ranging from collapse of ocean pasture productivity and an intensification of Atlantic hurricanes.

“This paper is the first to demonstrate a connection between human-caused CO2 driven warming of the planet and the amount of dust that is pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere,” Evan said.

sahara dust decline model

Declining dust as modelled in this study… click to enlarge and view the spaghetti

The paper proposes a computer model/soothsayer that divines that the Sahara will deposit less dust around the world because regional wind speeds will decrease. The conclusion is in line with other research that suggests that global warming will cause a general slowdown of atmospheric circulation at tropical latitudes.

By reconstructing in their computer the history of dust transport, the boffins were able to perform a “reanalysis” of data sets and create simulations of past climate using historical meteorological data to constrain and control the model. They added in satellite and coral data to strengthen their historical reconstructions of atmospheric dust.

Dust blowing in the wind consists mainly of aerosols measuring between 1 and 20 microns, which remain wind-borne until they are deposited often thousands of miles from their place of origin. Emission and dispersion of the dust is affected by a number of meteorological phenomena, such as El Nino, the North Atlantic Oscillation, rainfall in the Sahel, the Sahara Heat Low, and the Intertropical Convergence Zone.

Future To Be Tragically Clear

Looking into the future, the researchers, or rather their computers, proclaim that diminished winds will transport less dust and as that happens, the lessened reflective cooling effect will help amplify the ocean warming that fuels Atlantic hurricanes. The authors new model is revolutionary with regard to reigning climate models that include dust in the wind, most of those models fail to depict this dust reduction and compounding forcing effect as the world warms.

“Thus,” they conclude, “it is plausible that current temperature projections for the tropical Atlantic through the Caribbean are too conservative.”

Do Something or Do Not

Antarctic_plankton_CO2_wide

Abundant dust in the wind shown to have produced ancient ice ages, and lack of dust the warm ages. click to read more

The Juggernaut of declining dust in the wind is certain destiny over the course of coming centuries. This worsening crisis has been reported in countless papers over recent decades.

While we may not be able to prevent this dire catastrophe entirely we can replenish small vital quantities of dust to sustain vital ocean pastures and in turn the fish and marine wildlife those pasture ecosystems hold. If we do not the most damaging effects of our CO2 will surely be seen in an ever worsening and terrible collapse of ocean ecosystems. This blog is dedicated to the proven, affordable, immediate action we can and must do to restore, replenish, and sustain ocean pastures.

Research paper: The past, present and future of African dust. Amato T. Evan, Cyrille Flamant, Marco Gaetani and Francoise Guichard. Nature. 24 March 2016. doi:10.1038/nature17149