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Icelandic proglacial dust storms – link between dust storms and glacial melting


There is a link between large dust storms on Iceland and glacial melting according to new study by a University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science led by prof. Joseph M. Prospero and colleagues Joanna E. Bullard and Richard Hodgkins (Loughborough University, U.K.). The results provide new insights on the role of dust in climate change and high-latitude ocean ecosystems. The dust is both accelerating glacial melting and contributing important nutrients to the surrounding North Atlantic Ocean.

A 6-year record of measurements made on Heimaey, an island 17 km (10.5 mi) south of Iceland, reveals frequent dust events with concentrations exceeding 20 micrograms per cubic meter. Much of this potentially iron-rich dust is transported southward and deposited in the North Atlantic. Emissions are highest in spring and spatially and temporally associated with active glacial outwash plains; large dust events appear to be associated with glacial outburst floods. Iceland glaciers are melting at a high rate due to global warming and to sub-glacial volcanic activity. 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.

Rivers of black, volcanic-rich sediments flow into the surrounding land and nearby ocean due the glacial melt. Intense windstorms, common in the high-latitudes, eventually sweep up the dried sediments. 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 and early fall nutrient boost to . The iron increases the typically iron-depleted North Atlantic Ocean water’s primary productivity and stimulates the growth of marine biota. This process increases the draw down of CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean. Similar glacier-related dust storms have been seen in Alaska and in Patagonia.

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 such as Saharan dust transport across the mid Atlantic, from the west coast of Africa to the Caribbean and South Florida. Researchers point that we can expect that cold climate dust activity will become more widespread and intense as the planet warms. (TerraDaily)

The study, titled “High-Latitude Dust Over the North Atlantic: Inputs from Icelandic Proglacial Dust Storms,” was published in the March 2 issue of the journal Science. Prospero’s co-authors include Joanna E. Bullard and Richard Hodgkins at Loughborough University’s Polar and Alpine Research Centre.

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  1. Gee, I think my little sister knew if you took dirt and tossed it on snow, the snow melted way faster…a new study shows…LOL. Wow, I did read this and find it shocking there is nothing new or interesting in it. Just old news applied over a lager scale…the earth. What else do I think. We’re basically stupid. Regardless of what we see. Regardless of what we learned in school basic science. Regardless of everything, the sheeple will always look too, wait for their President to appear on TV with smashing news Climate Change is real and Deadly. When Oil Companies drill in our Oceans and catastrophe’s occur. When the Gulf stream stops. When suddenly all kinds of fish and mammals wash ashore. When Millions of Birds die. When the Earth quakes like never before. When our winter has totally disappeared and you now have one. When scientists report 150,000 Arctic locations now pumping Methane into our atmosphere. When the Government tells you everything is ok and under control…….You know you were right! Nothing is going on. Go back to watching the Price Is Right.

  2. Ohhh here we go again, Iceland has volcano which erupt spewing mega amounts of dust and debris, but it is still manmade global warming being blamed. How can we tax dust particles (particulates?) err guess we can’t so better tax humans instead. And as to those naughty retreating glaciers —– better peek here http://tinyurl.com/6sf2z2b

    Just MHO

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