Earth’s atmosphere more dustier than previous estimationDate: 20 April 2020 Tags: Climate Change
Comparing data from dozens of airborne observations throughout the world, a new study has found our planet's atmosphere contains about 17 million metric tonnes of coarse dust (which is larger than fine dust). This is four times more than is simulated in current climate models.
Climate models are an invaluable tool for predicting the trajectory of the climate crisis, but we need them to be as accurate as possible if we're going to model everything from its pace, to its consequences, to its tipping points.
The tiny, invisible dust matter tends to warm the atmosphere a lot like greenhouse gases do, and yet in six widely-used global atmospheric simulations, most of that coarse dust appears to be missing.
State-of-the-art climate models account for only 4 million metric tons, but new results showed more than four times that amount.
This means that previous simulations aren't incorporating nearly enough dust. And this could have a big impact on many of Earth's systems, from the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed in the ocean to the volume of rain falling.
Between Earth and the Sun, these coarse particles cop incoming radiation from both above and below. This can cause changes in atmospheric circulation, potentially driving phenomena like hurricanes, which have, incidentally, been increasing in frequency and severity with climate change.
This increases the likelihood of both fine and coarse particles contributing to a warming climate system, from the atmosphere above to the oceans below.
To properly represent the impact of dust as a whole on the Earth system, climate models must include an accurate treatment of coarse dust in the atmosphere.
Climate models are constantly being updated as we learn more about our planet, and this is just one aspect that seems to need a makeover. With the new information available, we'll be better equipped to determine Earth's future.