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Dust Levels Double in Last Century of Human Progress January 14, 2011
Couple wears face masks to block dust storm.
Desert dust and climate influence each other directly and indirectly through a highly complex relationship.
The level of dust in the atmosphere has doubled over the past 100 years with significant implications for the climate, according to a new study.

Presenting her findings last month at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, Natalie Mahowald of Cornell University revealed how her team made the discovery by examining core samples from glaciers, lake bottoms and coral reefs.

They found that part of the increase in atmospheric dust was due to human activities like construction and burning vegetation for agriculture.

But they also found that part of the increase may be due to climate change itself, which has increased the world’s desert landscape, leading to more dust.

The researchers conclude that an increase in the level of atmospheric dust particles can also have its own profound impact on climate.

They say it can cool the land below by reflecting sunlight back into space, and indirectly by helping clouds to form.

The findings were published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Photo: Carie Camancho - Flickr