Dust In The Wind


Hearing about this recent research makes us want to download Kansas songs and drift away with melancholy; either that or write a dramatic French screenplay and call it, Blame It On Bodelé. That’s because the world seems just a wee bit smaller after we read that scientists have quantified just how much dust from a tiny Saharan Valley is contributing to the nutrient basin in the Amazon. While it’s not flashy new news that a connection between these two distant continents exists- what is new is the extent and certainty of this relationship. The bottom line is folks, when framed in the context of global warming, changing wind patterns could be a disaster for the health of the Amazon. We don’t want to scare the pants off you, but dust, it turns out, is an important carrier of minerals and nutrients. It interacts with clouds and radiation, and is linked to the production of plankton. "Dust is the first link in the ocean's food chain," Dr. Ilan Koren told ISRAEL21c.

According to reporter Nicky Blackburn (who we met last at Israel’s Foreign Ministry), more than half of the dust needed to fertilize the entire Amazon rainforest is blown thousands of miles across the Atlantic from the Bodele Valley in Chad. Led by Dr. Ilan Koren from the Weizmann Institute, international scientists published their findings in the first issue of the new quarterly journal - Environmental Research Letters. The paper reveals that something close to as much as 56 percent of the dust tracked by satellite to the Brazilian rainforest originated in the Bodele Valley.


It’s been more than a decade that scientists have known that the Amazon rainforest continually washes away its own nutrient supply through frequent rainfall, and that it depends on a regular supply of minerals from the Sahara to exist; but until now, nobody was certain where this dust came from, or how much of it was reaching the rainforest.

In order to track the dust, Koren and colleagues from Israel, the UK, the United States, and Brazil used satellite imaging have for the first time measured the weight of this dust. 

They showed that a total of some 50 million tons of African dust is deposited upon the Amazon basin every year, a much higher figure than the previous estimates of 13 million tons, and that 56 percent of that dust originates in the dry lakebed of the Bodele Valley, which is about 200 times smaller than the Amazon basin.

Koren also notes that over the last four to five years, there is growing evidence that a change is occurring. In the meantime, he plans to continue studying the Bodele Valley dust emissions alongside a growing number of international scientists. ::Israel21c

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