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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Dust

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, March 16, 2014/Categories: sustainability, environment

Anyone who has ever had to wash mud off their cars following a rain shower, knows the influence of dust on daily life. The Dust Bowl of the 1930's is a somewhat larger reminder.

As land-use patterns remove vegetation from arid environments whether in China, West Africa, or the USA, dust is one result of this land miss-management. Satellite images from West Aftica show the extent of just one dust storm crossing the Cape Verde islands.

While dust can provide nutrition to ocean plankton, what is less appreciated is its influence on alpine snow pack, glaciers, and subsequent water resources. When dust falls onto these mountain snowfields, it absorbs solar radiation causing melting earlier in the year when it isn't needed as much as during the summer for agriculture and drinking water.


West African Dust Storm (credit: NASA)

Whether you're a city dweller in Lima dependent on glacial run-off, many places in China, or skiers enjoying Colorado's famous ski hills, this should concern you.

The message is to respect the desert. You might be helping to produce the next Dust Bowl if you don't.

WHB
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