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
- 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 November 2018 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:
18 April 2018
Launch of the website Dustco, an affiliated project website by Dr. Catarina Guerreiro.
29 January 2018
Dr Catarina Guerreiro receives a Marie-Curie fellowship to work on dust
Catarina was awarded a Marie-Curie fellowship to work on a project called "DUSTCO: Effects of atmospheric dust deposition on coccolithophore production". She will spend most of her time working with Prof Vanda Brotas at the University of Lisbon, Portugal, studying the response of phytoplankton (coccolithophores) to Saharan dust deposition, working on the sediment traps that were deployed between Africa and the Caribbean.
Below please find three animations created by Dr. Leandro Ponsoni (NIOZ), showing three oceanographic parameters during the first year of dust collection (2012-2013). Clearly visible is the extent of the Amazon-River influence. These animations are part of a manuscript that was submitted to Deep-Sea Research by Laura Korte.
Sea Surface Salinity:
Sea Level Anomaly:
Ekman vertical velocity:
8 - 10 January 2018
PAGES - DICE workshop at the University of Chile biological station of Las Cruces (Chile)
During three days, some 30 dust specialists gathered to discuss the state of the art of the environmental impacts of desert dust on the ocean. Catarina Guerreiro, Laura Korte and Jan-Berend also teamed up and presented our latest results.
External project partners
- Catarina Guerreiro
- Malte Jäger
Former members of our Dust team
- Carmen Friese (now in Berlin, Germany)
- 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)
- Fleur v. Crimpen (graduated from UvA)
- 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
Schreuder, L.T., Hopmans, E.C., Stuut, J-B W., Sinninghe-Damsté, J.S., Schouten, S. 2018.
Transport and deposition of the fire biomarker levoglucosan across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 227, 171-185
Schreuder, L.T., Stuut, J-B W., Korte, L.F., Sinninghe-Damsté, J.S., Schouten, S. 2018.
Aeolian transport and deposition of plant wax n-alkanes across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. Organic Geochemistry 115, 113-123
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.