Tim Radford – Africa’s dust is a priceless export

Scientists show how different the world would be without a sprinkling of the wind-borne African dust that fertilises oceans and forests.

LONDON, 3 December, 2016 − Climate scientists have identified Africa’s single biggest export – the wind-borne dust that fertilises the Amazon forests, nourishes life in the Atlantic ocean and softens the noonday blaze of the sun. And they have calculated its vital role in climate change over the last 23,000 years.

In the words of US oceanographers and Earth scientists, “North Africa exports teragrams of wind-blown mineral aerosol over the tropical North Atlantic each year, with significant climate and biogeochemical impacts.”

A teragram is a million tonnes, and the quantities airlifted into the sky from the Sahara and the Sahel each year by the trade winds and blown abroad would be enough to fill 10 million heavy trucks.

Read more