The World’s Biggest Sandbox at Work

Lured by promises of epic sandstorms, researchers have taken to the high seas.  What are they researching you ask?  Well…turns out that dust storms carry sand from the world’s deserts into the oceans where nutrients from the sand fuel plant growth.  Estimates show that approximately 1,700 million tonnes of dust are produced by deserts around the world each year – and about 1/3 of this falls into the oceans.  Sand particles contain nitrogen, phosphorous and iron, which microscopic plants feed on, powering them to soak up the nasty carbon dioxide we humans continue to spew into the atmosphere.  {Photo: Sandstorm building over the Sahara desert,  NASA}

An international team of 28 scientists and technicians set off on January 5th to study these dust-storms in order to gain a better understand of how this system works.  The team hopes to gather more information in order to understand the relationship between dust, marine organisms and carbon dioxide – a relationship that will clearly change over time, especially with global climate change affecting not only the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but ocean and desert ecosystems as well. {Photo: the ship used by researchers to study the storms, BBC}

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