Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research

Dust

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 

  • Expedition 64PE482 (winter 2021)
  • Expedition 64PE464 (autumn 2019)
  • Expedition MSM79 (autumn 2018)
  • Expedition​​​​​​​ 64PE443 (summer 2018)
  • Expedition​​​​​​​ M140 (summer 2017)
  • Expedition​​​​​​​ JC134 (spring 2016)
  • Expedition​​​​​​​ MSM48 (fall 2015)
  • Expedition​​​​​​​ 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 2019 we will set sail again on board RV Pelagia to service the instruments and collect the samples that were collected during the past year. Keep an eye on this website and the blog to follow our adventures at sea!

 

More dusty news is presented through NIOZ' dust blog:

Monday 05 July 2021
Rain determines Saharan dust deposition across the subtropical north Atlantic Ocean
New dusty paper out: rain determines the seasonality in dust deposition across the subtropical north Atlantic Ocean. In their new paper that appeared online in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Michèlle van der Does and colleagues present the…
Monday 22 February 2021
Saharan dust in Europe
Every year, about 180 Million Ton (180,000,000,000kg) is blown with the Trade winds towards the Atlantic Ocean and less than a quarter of that material (~40MTon) reaches the Caribbean. This dust takes about one week to cross the Atlantic Ocean, a…
Tuesday 12 January 2021
Dust2021
From 12 January to 6 February 2021 we have been chasing Saharan dust once more. We have serviced both the dust-collecting buoys "Carmen" and "Laura" as well as sediment-trap mooring M1. These three moorings had been monitoring and sampling Saharan…
Wednesday 24 June 2020
Godzilla
An enormous dust storm is making its way across the Atlantic towards the Americas. The dust outbreak, named ‘Godzilla’ because of its size, is a typical summer phenomenon that originates in northwest Africa.
Tuesday 07 April 2020
New dusty paper out: Saharan dust versus Amazon River water
In their new paper that appeared today in the open-access version of Limnology & Oceanography, entitled “Multiple drivers of production and particle export in the western tropical North Atlantic”, Laura Korte and colleagues present a comprehensive…
Friday 13 March 2020
New dusty paper out: Transatlantic Saharan dust fluxes
In their new paper that appeared today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Michèlle van der Does and colleagues present the first continuous two-year record of Transatlantic Saharan-dust fluxes, which they compare to modelled dust fluxes…
Wednesday 26 February 2020
Calima at the Canary Islands
Every now and then, the Canary Islands experience severe dust outbreaks from the Sahara Desert. The local population call the wind that carries the Saharan dust "Calima" , which is in fact the local name for the dry and hot winds that are also known…
Tuesday 05 November 2019
Expedition 64PE464: DUST2019
From 11 to 23 November 2019 we have been chasing Saharan dust once more. On 11 November RV Pelagia has left the port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spain) to sail south for a two-week expedition to service both the dust-collecting buoys "Carmen" and…
Monday 01 July 2019
DUST | Loooooong tropical-cyclone records
In their new paper that appeared today in the open-access journal Geophysical Research Letters, Jan-Berend Stuut and colleagues present one of the longest existing continuous records (5.3 Million years) of climate history of the northwestern part of…
Tuesday 23 April 2019
DUST | Spring dust is in the air!
Not only spring is in the air; a lot of Saharan dust is presently also blowing towards northern Europe. The distance between the sources in northern Africa and The Netherlands is so large that the material is predominantly very fine grained: clay and…