Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dust linked to increased glacier melting, ocean productivity

Date:
March 1, 2012
Source:
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Summary:
A new study has established a link between large dust storms on Iceland and glacial melting. The dust is both accelerating glacial melting and contributing important nutrients to the surrounding North Atlantic Ocean. The results provide new insights on the role of dust in climate change and high-latitude ocean ecosystems.

A new University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study in the journal Science shows a link between large dust storms on Iceland and glacial melting. The dust is both accelerating glacial melting and contributing important nutrients to the surrounding North Atlantic Ocean. This is the aerosol sampling station, Heimaey, Westerman Islands, Iceland.
Credit: UM/RSMAS

A University of Miami-led study has established a link between large dust storms on Iceland and glacial melting. The dust is both accelerating glacial melting and contributing important nutrients to the surrounding North Atlantic Ocean. The results provide new insights on the role of dust in climate change and high-latitude ocean ecosystems.

Joseph M. Prospero, professor emeritus of marine and atmospheric chemistry at UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and colleagues Joanna E. Bullard and Richard Hodgkins, of Loughborough University, United Kingdom, analyzed six years of dust concentrations collected at the St๓rh๖f๏i research station on the island of Heimaey, which is located 10.5 miles off the south coast of Iceland. The results show large increases in dust concentration, which can be traced to dust sources adjacent to major glaciers on Iceland.

As the glaciers melt, rivers of black, volcanic-rich sediments flow into the surrounding land and nearby ocean. Intense windstorms, common in the high-latitudes, eventually sweep up the dried sediments. The resulting dust storms are clearly visible in satellite images that show huge dust plumes extending hundreds of kilometers south over the Atlantic Ocean. Iceland glaciers are melting at a high rate due to global warming and to sub-glacial volcanic activity.

"The dust in Iceland dust storms can also have an impact on the glaciers themselves," said Prospero. "The black dust deposited on the glacier surface absorbs solar radiation, thereby increasing the rates of glacial melting."

Iceland dust can also affect ocean processes over the North Atlantic. The researchers suggest that the iron-rich dust provides a late summer/early fall nutrient boost to the typically iron-depleted North Atlantic Ocean waters. The iron increases the ocean's primary productivity and stimulates the growth of marine biota. This, in turn, increases the draw down of CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean.

Currently, there is much research on global atmospheric dust processes but most of this research focuses on tropical and arid regions in Africa and the Middle East, the most active dust sources. This study is one of the few to look at high-latitude areas and is the first to review measurements over such a long time period -- February 1997 to December 2002.

The study shows that the dust transport in cold, high-latitude regions, such as Iceland, are comparable to concentrations seen at low-latitude regions near the equator, in particular, the well known Saharan dust transport across the mid Atlantic, from the west coast of Africa to the Caribbean and South Florida.

Due to increased air temperatures linked to global climate change, glaciers worldwide are rapidly retreating. The melting of glaciers, including those on Iceland, would also contribute to sea level rise.

"The dust processes taking place on Iceland are likely to be occurring in other high latitude glacierized regions," said Prospero. "Similar glacier-related dust storms have been seen in Alaska and in Patagonia. On the basis of this research we might expect that cold climate dust activity will become more widespread and intense as the planet warms."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Joseph M. Prospero, Joanna E. Bullard, and Richard Hodgkins. High-Latitude Dust Over the North Atlantic: Inputs from Icelandic Proglacial Dust Storms. Science, 2 March 2012: 1078-1082 DOI: 10.1126/science.1217447

Cite This Page:

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Dust linked to increased glacier melting, ocean productivity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301180830.htm>.
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. (2012, March 1). Dust linked to increased glacier melting, ocean productivity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301180830.htm
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Dust linked to increased glacier melting, ocean productivity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120301180830.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — The pair of rare white northern rhinos bring hope for their species as only six remain in the world. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trick-or-Treating Banned Because of Polar Bears

Trick-or-Treating Banned Because of Polar Bears

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — Mother Nature is pulling a trick on the kids of Arviat, Canada. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) tells us, the effects of global warming caused the town to ban trick-or-treating this Halloween. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins