Dust From Africa

Intriguing paper in tomorrow’s Science about the connection between drought in Africa and dust in Barbados:

Great quantities of African dust are carried over large areas of the Atlantic and to the Caribbean during much of the year. Measurements made from 1965 to 1998 in Barbados trade winds show large interannual changes that are highly anticorrelated with rainfall in the Soudano-Sahel, a region that has suffered varying degrees of drought since 1970. Regression estimates based on long-term rainfall data suggest that dust concentrations were sharply lower during much of the 20th century before 1970, when rainfall was more normal. Because of the great sensitivity of dust emissions to climate, future changes in climate could result in large changes in emissions from African and other arid regions that, in turn, could lead to impacts on climate over large areas.

Prospero and Lamb (subscription required)

The “varying degrees of drought since 1970” bit coincides with the elevated rainfall period in the southwestern U.S., which ended in the late 1990s. This suggests and area for further inquiry.