By: April Carson
In the mid-1800s, powerful winds began carrying dust particles from Earth's deserts into our atmosphere at steadily increasing rates. Recent data indicates that this surge has concealed up to 8% of the world's current warming trends.
The consequences of this "global dimming" phenomenon are alarming. Scientists have found that the dust particles are preventing sunlight from reaching Earth's surface and trapping heat within our atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise steadily over time.
By using satellite data and ground measurements, researchers have discovered a persistent rise in minuscule airborne particles since 1850. Evidence from soil dust found in ice cores, ocean sediments, and bogs reveals that the amount of mineral dust present in our atmosphere has expanded by about 55 percent over this time period.
This increase in particulate matter has been linked to the burning of fossil fuels, forest fires, and agricultural activities. These particles have a huge impact on our planet's climate by absorbing and reflecting radiation from the sun.
Reflected sunlight and clouds at high altitudes that act like a warm blanket, trapping air below them can be disrupted by dust particles in such a way that it has an overall cooling effect. This masks the real intensity of heat energy currently weaving around our atmosphere.
Recent research has revealed that the potential for global cooling caused by these particles is not enough to counteract the devastating effects of global warming.
Jasper Kok, an atmospheric physicist from the University of California, Los Angeles stated that a significant amount of dust has helped to lessen global warming by approximately 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit. Had it not been for this dust, our present-day temperature would have increased even higher than 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 Celsius).
What is most concerning is that this dust has a short-term cooling effect, and will eventually leave the atmosphere within a few years.
Kok notes, "Our research indicates that desert dust has augmented over the years and may have neutralized some of the climate warming created by greenhouse gases. While it hasn't brought about a drastic amount of cooling, these findings demonstrate how much more global warming can be caused than what is currently foreseen in climate models."
The research team has also uncovered a previously unknown relationship between man-made aerosol pollution and desert dust, as well as its direct impact on climate change. According to Kok, “Our study proves that human activities can trigger environmental changes such as increased desert dust levels, which then shape our subsequent climate."
The amount of dust that is swept into our atmosphere relies heavily on higher wind speeds, drier soils, and shifts in human land use. For instance, some of this airborne dirt eventually falls into the ocean waters where it provides essential nutrients such as iron to the photosynthesizing plankton living there; this allows them to grow and reproduce while also drawing down carbon from their environment.
Climate models have yet to acknowledge this difficult desert dust cycle, and it is uncertain whether there will be an upsurge or decrease in the number of desert air particles in the future.
According to Kok, by factoring in the large contribution of desert dust, comprising more than 50 percent of total atmospheric particulate matter mass, into climate prediction models will drastically improve their accuracy. This is immensely beneficial as it allows us to make informed decisions on how best to respond and adapt efficiently to future climate change effects.
Recently published in Nature Reviews Earth and Environment, this research is making waves within the scientific community. Kok and her team of researchers are already working on further research to better understand the effects of desert dust in climate change.
The implications of this research are far-reaching, as the study reveals how human activities have a major impact on global warming and desertification. The findings help us to better comprehend the mechanisms driving climate change, and ultimately help us to inform policy decisisons and develop innovative strategies to mitigate the effects of global warming.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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