Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Welcome to NIOZ' dustiest web page!

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:

Daily images of a Saharan dust outbreak in summer 2013 - animated

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 

  • Cruise M140 (summer 2017)
  • Cruise JC134 (spring 2016)
  • Cruise MSM48 (fall 2015)
  • Cruise 64PE395 (winter 2015)
    ....and older ones

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:

Friday 20 October 2017
Saharan dust and Amazon freshwaters cause algal blooms
New findings suggest that both Saharan dust and freshwater from the Amazon may have led to algal blooms in the western equatorial Atlantic Ocean. Those are the conclusions of a new paper published by Catarina Guerreiro and colleagues in the…
Tuesday 17 October 2017
Dust (and smoke) is in the air!
Cyclone Ophelia draws Sahara dust and Iberian smoke to northern Europe
Sunday 10 September 2017
New dust paper published by Carmen Friese
The manuscript by Carmen Friese (MARUM) has now been published as "full" paper in the open-access journal Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics. The paper is entitled: "Seasonal provenance changes in present-day Saharan dust collected in and off…
Saturday 09 September 2017
Expedition M140
Research Expedition M140 onboard FS Meteor took place from 10 August until 5 September 2017 and was dedicated to servicing three sediment-trap mooring stations and surface buoys that have been collecting Saharan dust since we deployed them last year…
Monday 03 July 2017
Haboobs
Dust outbreaks are most often impressive events. One of the most spectacular dust storms is the so-called "haboob". Although initially described in Sudan, Africa, they have also been observed in other dry areas. Last week, a spectacular haboob in…
Thursday 22 June 2017
Australian dust cycle
The Australian dust cycle is a "natural laboratory" for the production of mineral dust. Nowhere else on the planet is the process so clearly visible and chances are that in a few months, huge dust outbreaks will happen again!
Wednesday 14 June 2017
New dust paper by Catarina Guerreiro accepted in Biogeosciences
New dust paper by Catarina Guerreiro accepted for Biogeosciences Discussions
Tuesday 13 June 2017
Saharan dust outbreak
A huge dust outbreak occurred off NW Africa, which was registered by our buoys!
Tuesday 30 May 2017
New dust paper published by Laura Korte
Laura Korte published her very first paper in the open-access journal Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics