That's Not Dust, It's Data

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Science  15 Mar 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5562, pp. 1977
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5562.1977a

Atmospheric mineral dust is an important agent of global climate change because of the many ways in which it can affect Earth's heat budget. Dust can act directly by inducing either radiative scattering or absorption and indirectly by causing cloud droplet condensation or influencing atmospheric CO2 concentration (via deposition that results in the fertilization of oceanic primary productivity). Records extracted from ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica have shown that the concentration of atmospheric dust has varied by more than an order of magnitude across warm and cold intervals of glacial cycles.

In order to improve the temporal resolution of measurements of dust transport to Greenland, Bory et al. have obtained samples from snow pits and report on the mineralogical and Sr and Nd isotopic composition of dust deposited during the past decade. Present-day dust in north central Greenland originates primarily from the Taklamakan Desert in northwestern China, as is the case for dust that was deposited during the last glacial period and the Holocene. Moreover, the ability to measure seasonal variability in dust composition will help to correlate climate events in Asian dust source areas and in the North Atlantic and may provide more precise values of wind strength and regional aridity for input into atmospheric transport models. — HJS

Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., in press.

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