Tuesday, December 15, 2009

PNAS: Special Issue on Tipping Elements

Excerpt from a summary:

image_mini2Tipping element Bodélé Depression: The immense dust storm was imaged in a series of overpasses by the NASA’s Aqua satellite. Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center
A research team led by Richard Washington from the University of Oxford qualifies the biggest dust source on our planet, the Bodélé Depression in Chad, as a potential tipping element. This area in the southern Sahara releases huge plumes, which carry about 700,000 tons of dust towards the Atlantic and the Amazon basin. The authors explain that the so-deployed mineral aerosols play a vital role in transcontinental climatic and biophysical feedbacks. If regional wind patterns or surface erosivities changed due to anthropogenic interference, the dust export from the Bodélé Depression could be substantially modified at time scales as small as one season.

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