RSS   Newsletter   Contact   Advertise with us
Post Online Media
Post Online Media Magazine

Changes in the Sahara could mean more potent Atlantic storms

Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn
Staff writer |
Sahara
Climate changes   Study of Saharan dust offers insights into future climate change

A team of researchers from the U.S. and France has found evidence of cycles of Saharan dust movement into the atmosphere in the past.

The team has used the information they gathered to predict dust level changes heading into the future. In their paper the team describes the nature of their study and why they believe changes in the Sahara could mean more potent Atlantic storms in the future.

Wind pulling dust into the atmosphere from the Saharan desert has more of an impact than just making life difficult for the people that live there; it is also responsible for dumping dust particles onto the Amazon rain forest, allowing the forest to exist.

It also has a calming impact on storm formation over the Atlantic Ocean—dust particles reflect heat back into the atmosphere.

But now, the researchers with this new effort suggest that Saharan dust patterns could be changing.

They undertook a study to determine the degree of sand being moved into the air by winds since the mid-19th century and found that there have been cyclical periods of more or less dustiness.

To learn more about dust activity in the area, the researchers studied data from NOAAS's Earth System Research Laboratory, which is based on satellite data and also studied terrain in the area, which allowed for looking back at the impact of wind and sand to approximately the 1850's.

After assimilation and analysis of the data, they found patterns emerging—from the 1910s to the 1940s, for example, there was a period of elevated dustiness, and another during 70s to the 80s.

In contrast, there were periods of less dustiness during the 1860s, the 1950s and in the 2000s. They also noted that different weather phenomenon could impact Saharan dust levels, such as the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation and West African Monsoons.

The team then used the data they had obtained and input it into climate models to try to predict dust levels heading into the future. The models showed a looming period of less dustinees, due to global warming, which they note, would be beneficial to those living in the area.

But it would not be good for the Amazon rain forest, or for people in the America's as it would suggest more or stronger storms developing over the Atlantic and lashing the shores of landmasses in their path.


What to read next
POST Online Media Contact