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 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:

Wednesday 08 August 2018
NIOZ@SEA | Saharan dust in the Mediterranean
Research expedition 64PE443 onboard RV Pelagia takes place from 9 to 13 August 2018 and is dedicated to recovering a set of geodetic instruments that have been recording sea-floor movements related to the activity of Mount Etna, as well as to…
Wednesday 04 July 2018
Saharan dust at the source
In their new paper, Michèlle van der Does and colleagues show how the so-called radiogenic isotopes of Sr, Nd, and Hf, as well as a suite of rare-earth elements can be used to demonstrate the Saharan origin of sediments collected while sinking…
Thursday 31 May 2018
Ballasting potential of Saharan dust
In their new paper, Helga van der Jagt (AWI-Bremerhaven, Germany) and colleagues show how Saharan dust particles and marine snow can increase the export of organic matter from the surface ocean towards the sea floor. This process is essential for the…
Monday 12 March 2018
Fire biomarker in Saharan dust traced across the Atlantic Ocean
In their new paper that was published in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta today, Laura Schreuder and colleagues apply a new proxy for burnt vegetation; the anhydrosugar levoglucosan, and demonstrate how this sugar can be found in present-day Saharan…
Thursday 01 March 2018
Dust storm on Texel
The extreme weather conditions (prolonged lack of rain and continuous gale-force winds) cause the top soils of pastures to be blown off. Even on Texel we have dust storms!
Tuesday 09 January 2018
NICO 2 samples Saharan dust
NICO expedition leg 2 was designed to study the impact of Saharan dust on the marine environment and they are sailing right through a Saharan-dust outbreak.
Sunday 26 November 2017
Biomarkers in Saharan dust
A new paper by Laura Schreuder and colleagues presents new data on terrestrial higher-plant biomarkers found in aerosols and marine sediments sampled along the DUSTTRAFFIC transatlantic array of sediment traps as well as in seafloor sediments.
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…