Past and Present Saharan dust: a marine perspective
Jan-Berend Stuut, University of Bremen, Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM)
Aeolian dust is found over large parts of the globe; reddish layers of Saharan dust occasionally cover cars in Europe and glaciers in Greenland, but also corals in the Caribbean. Dust storms from the East Asian deserts blanket cities in China, Korea, and Japan, and Australian dust is transported to New Zealand's glaciers, even to Antarctica. The problems caused by such dust-storm events are evident. However, it has been recognised recently (e.g., IPCC 2007) that wind-blown dust has much further-reaching consequences for local ecosystems and global climate.
It has been suggested that dust particles can have both direct effects on climate by changing the Earth's radiation budget and albedo, as well as indirect effects through interactions with clouds, and by changing the ocean's carbon cycle through fertilisation of marine biota. Model studies have demonstrated that dust particles not only form a strong feedback mechanism in global climate change, they are even thought to be able to cause climate change.
A number of scientific disciplines cover the multitude of aspects related to aeolian dust in the atmosphere. From a climate perspective there is a strong interest in the processes and effects (like ocean fertilisation) of aerosol deposition into oceans and onto glaciers and how dust accumulation in terrestrial and marine sequences can be used as climate archives to reconstruct past environmental conditions.
Martin, J.H., 1990. Glacial-interglacial CO2 change: the iron hypothesis. Paleoceanography, 5(1): 1-13.
Technical: iron from dust could fertilise the ocean and influence global climate
Mulitza, S. et al., 2008. Sahel megadroughts triggered by glacial slowdowns of Atlantic meridional overturning. Paleoceanography, 23(PA4206).
Technical: variability in Sahel climate related to ocean circulation
De Deckker, P. et al., 2008. Geochemical and microbiological fingerprinting of airborne dust that fell in Canberra, Australia, in October 2002. Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 9.
Technical: long paper (22 pages) on only one sample, introducing practically all disciplines that deal with dust
Interview with Patrick De Deckker on Australian radio: