Atmospheric dust may have hidden true extent of global heating

(The Guardian, 17 Jan 2023) Material from dry landscapes has surged since the 1800s, possibly helping to cool the planet for decades.

Dust that billows up from desert storms and arid landscapes has helped cool the planet for the past several decades, and its presence in the atmosphere may have obscured the true extent of global heating caused by fossil fuel emissions.

Atmospheric dust has increased by about 55% since the mid-1800s, an analysis suggests. And that increasing dust may have hidden up to 8% of warming from carbon emissions.

The analysis by atmospheric scientists and climate researchers in the US and Europe attempts to tally the varied, complex ways in which dust has affected global climate patterns, concluding that overall, it has worked to somewhat counteract the warming effects of greenhouse gasses. The study, published in Nature Reviews Earth and Environment, warns that current climate models fail to take into account the effect of atmospheric dust.

“We’ve been predicting for a long time that we’re headed toward a bad place when it comes to greenhouse warming,” said Jasper Kok, an atmospheric physicist who led the research. “What this research shows is that so far, we’ve had the emergency brake on.”

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The Guardian, 17 Jan 2023: Atmospheric dust may have hidden true extent of global heating