The Impact of Atmospheric Sand and Dust on Climate and Environment

Leonard Barrie, Professor Emeritus Stockholm University and The Cyprus Institute Adjunct Prof. McGill University, Montreal. Photo: Eva DalinSpeaker: Leonard Barrie, Professor Emeritus Stockholm University and The Cyprus Institute Adjunct Prof. McGill University, Montreal
Time: September 13 at 11h00–12h00
Place: Ahlmansalen, Geoscience Building



Abstract:
Sand and dust aerosols (suspended particulate matter) play a major role in the climate and Earth system. They are suspended in a wide spectrum of sizes into the atmosphere by winds from dry surface soil. This occurs mostly in major arid regions of northern Africa, the Middle East and Asia. However, they are also found on other continents such as Australia. In the source region or well down-wind after transport over thousands of kilometres, sand and dust aerosols can affect weather and climate through interaction with incoming solar radiation and outgoing infrared radiation as well as by altering clouds and precipitation formation. As relatively effective ice nuclei, sand and dust particles may regulate the freezing of atmospheric super-cooled water in clouds. Atmospheric sand and dust particles can carry limiting nutrients such as iron, nitrate and phosphate from continents over long distances to marine surface waters. Once deposited these nutrients can stimulate primary production in the ocean surface with consequences for the carbon cycle and marine life. Dust deposits leave records in glacial snow and ice as well as in freshwater and marine sediments. These records yield insight into occurrence in the atmosphere and atmospheric processes involved in the dust cycle. Sand and dust have many other impacts. It can greatly affect human health and longevity when deposited in the respiratory system. This causes asthma, production of infections and related stresses on the body. While suspended in the atmosphere, it poses a problem to ground and air transport. It can also affect the economy of a region through impacts on agriculture and industry. Current knowledge of the occurrence, prediction and impacts of sand and dust globally are reviewed in this seminar.

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