Massive dust storm in China circled the world in 13 days: study

Jul 20, 2009

A wind storm that ripped across western China's Taklimakan desert kicked up hundreds of thousands of tonnes of dust that high-altitude winds then carried around the world in less than two weeks, a study says.

On May 8-9, 2007 winds reaching up to 36 kilometers (22.5 miles) per hour blew an estimated 800,000 tonnes of dust into the air, according to satellite imaging and computer models.

Trapped against the high walls of the Tibetan plateau, the dust was forced higher and higher, reaching an altitude of around 5,000 metres (16,250 feet).

A warm convection flow then lofted most of the dust higher still, where it caught a jetstream that took it on a "journey around the world" at between 8,000 and 10,000 metres (26,000 and 32,500 feet).

After 13 days, the plume passed over the Taklimakan desert where it had begun its strange trek.

On its second trip around the globe, part of the dust fell on the northwest Pacific thanks to an abrupt change in a high-pressure weather system. More may have fallen in the Mid-Atlantic and Balkans.

The cloud was detected by an imager called Caliop, launched in 2006 aboard a NASA Earth-observation satellite, Calipso.

The study, published on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows the importance of airborne in reflecting sunlight, thus easing global warming, say its Japanese authors.

Asian dust could play an important role in high-altitude cloud formation, with dust particles providing the seed around which condense and then freeze, they add.

The mineral-rich dust from Taklimakan may also nourish the waters of the North Pacific, depositing iron that feeds phytoplankton, the microscopic marine plants that are the first link in the oceanic .

"The Taklimakan Desert is a major source of dust transported and deposited around the globe," says the paper, lead-authored by Itsushi Uno of Kyushu University.

"Asian may have a more important role in many processes than thought by the atmospheric sciences community at present."

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: How productive are the ore factories in the deep sea?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

African dust cloud heads for Florida

Jul 24, 2005

Florida and the Caribbean are likely to get a taste of the Sahara Desert next week. An enormous dust cloud is moving across the Atlantic Ocean, borne by the trade winds, the Miami Herald reports.

Dust Devils Whip By Spirit

Apr 13, 2007

On sol 1120 (February 26, 2007), the navigation camera aboard NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured one of the best dust devils it’s seen in its three-plus year mission. The series of navigation ...

Study ties hurricanes to Sahara

Apr 03, 2007

A U.S. government study suggests that the relatively tame 2006 hurricane season may have been tied to activity in Africa's Sahara desert.

Recommended for you

How productive are the ore factories in the deep sea?

24 minutes ago

About ten years after the first moon landing, scientists on earth made a discovery that proved that our home planet still holds a lot of surprises in store for us. Looking through the portholes of the submersible ...

NASA image: Volcanoes in Guatemala

5 hours ago

This photo of volcanoes in Guatemala was taken from NASA's C-20A aircraft during a four-week Earth science radar imaging mission deployment over Central and South America. The conical volcano in the center ...

NASA sees last vestiges of Tropical Depression Jack

22 hours ago

Tropical Cyclone Jack had weakened to a tropical depression when NASA and JAXA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite passed above on April 22, 2014 at 1120 UTC/7:20 a.m. EDT.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
3 / 5 (2) Jul 22, 2009
RADIOACTIVE FALLOUT HAS TRACKED HIGH-ALTITUDE WINDS

I do not have the paper in front of me, but studies of radioactive fallout during the Cold War by Professor P. K. Kuroda and his colleagues provided many good, quantitative measurements of high-altitude winds.

As I recall the measurements were consistent with the 13 day period reported here.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel

More news stories

Sea floor conditions mimicked for drilling platforms

Mobile jack-up drilling platforms used in the oil and gas industry are at risk of rejection before installation due to their use in harsher environments and deeper waters—but University of WA scientists ...

New breast cancer imaging method promising

The new PAMmography method for imaging breast cancer developed by the University of Twente's MIRA research institute and the Medisch Spectrum Twente hospital appears to be a promising new method that could ...

Research proves nanobubbles are superstable

The intense research interest in surface nanobubbles arises from their potential applications in microfluidics and the scientific challenge for controlling their fundamental physical properties. One of the ...

Using antineutrinos to monitor nuclear reactors

When monitoring nuclear reactors, the International Atomic Energy Agency has to rely on input given by the operators. In the future, antineutrino detectors may provide an additional option for monitoring. ...