As an aerosolizer, dust devils demoted

Dust is an inescapable byproduct of a rocky planet reworked by tectonic forces, extraterrestrial impacts and human activities. And though it may seem like a nuisance, airborne dust plays an integral role in the Earth system, fertilizing downwind ecosystems and influencing climate. But just how dust gets lofted into the air has long puzzled scientists. Previous studies have suggested that dust devils could stir up as much as a third of the atmosphere’s dust budget, but new work reveals these twisters contribute just a tenth of that amount.

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Julia Rosen

Rosen holds a doctorate in geology and is a freelance science writer based in Portland, Ore. She has served as both an intern and an interim staff writer for EARTH, has also written for the Los Angeles Times and AGU’s Eos, and occasionally hosts 60-Second Science podcasts for Scientific American. Find more of her work at www.julia-rosen.com.

Saturday, August 1, 2015 - 06:00