Saharan dust transported over large distances through the atmosphere with the offshore trade winds is a potential fertilizer of the ocean. NIOZ traces dust originating from the Sahara desert across the whole North-Atlantic Ocean using a trans-Atlantic array of moored equipment with a dust-collecting buoy at the surface and sediment traps in the ocean below it.
Below you see a series of seven daily satellite pictures (copyright NASA) in summer 2013, showing the progression of a dust outbreak in norhtwest Africa, blowing across the Atlantic Ocean:
Every year, numerous of such dust events take place and in total about 180 Million Tons of so-called mineral dust are blown out from the northwest African deserts (including Sahara and Sahel) westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Recent satellite measurements by NASA have demonstrated that between Africa and the Caribbean, about 140 Million Tons are deposited on the ocean as well as on the South-American rainforest.
Such amounts of dust deposited over such a big area are likely to have an impact. In two affiliated projects at NIOZ and another one at partner institute MARUM-Bremen we are studying Saharan dust by collecting it with instruments that we placed underneath the dust plume. We deployed tethered buoys with autonomous dust collectors, powered by solar panels, which suck air through filters. In addition, we placed moorings with sediment traps to collect material settling through the ocean. Both the buoys and moorings provide time series of dust, which we compare with satellite images and meteorological data.
A third way to sample deposited dust is by taking sediment cores from the ocean floor.
In 2012 we deployed the instruments for the first time and we re-visited the instruments regularly throughout the past few years using various research vessels such as NIOZ' own RV Pelagia, but also on foreign ships such as FS Maria S Merian, FS Meteor and RRS James Cook.
With the new website, the blogs that were kept during these cruises have disappeared. You can still read about what we did at sea on an external website: www.stuut.tv
The projects TRAFFIC (funded by NWO) and DUSTTRAFFIC (funded by ERC) focus on the marine-environmental effects of dust deposition and we have published some very nice results already, with more papers coming up!
In August 2017 we will set sail again on board FS Meteor to service the instruments and collect the samples that were collected during the past year. Keep an eye on this website to follow our adventures at sea!
More dusty news is presented through NIOZ' dust blog:
External project partners
- Carmen Friese
- Catarina Guerreiro
- Malte Jäger
Former members of our Dust team
- Chris Munday (now in Canada)
- Dirk Jong (now PhD student at VUA)
- Esmee Geerken (now PhD student at NIOZ)
- Felix Temmesfeld (graduated from Bremen University, Germany)
- Hans v. Hateren (now PhD student at VUA)
- Katharina Wetterauer (now Master's student at Bremen University)
- Korinna Kunde (now Master's student at NOC-Southampton)
- Marije Hoegen (now Master's student at Ghent University)
- Merrith Hogenes (graduated from VUA)
- Monica Martens (graduated from VUA)
- Oliver Knebel (now PhD student in Auckland, NZ)
Recently published papers
Guerreiro, C.V., Baumann, K.H., Brummer, G.J.A., Fischer, G., Korte, L.F., Merkel, U., Sá, C., de Stigter, H., Stuut, J.B.W., 2017. Coccolithophore fluxes in the open tropical North Atlantic: influence of the Amazon river and of Saharan dust deposition. Biogeosciences Discuss. 2017, 1-26.
Korte, L.F., Brummer, G.J.A., van der Does, M., Guerreiro, C.V., Hennekam, R., van Hateren, J.A., Jong, D., Munday, C.I., Schouten, S., Stuut, J.B.W., 2017. Downward particle fluxes of biogenic matter and Saharan dust across the equatorial North Atlantic. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 17, 6023-6040.
Van der Does, M., Korte, L.F., Munday, C.I., Brummer, G.J.A., Stuut, J.B.W., 2016. Particle size traces modern Saharan dust transport and deposition across the equatorial North Atlantic. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 16, 13697-13710.