SEP 01, 2017 2:16 PM PDT

What does the dust blow in?

You may be surprised by what the wind gusts around the world. Scientists know that dust from Asia blows across the Pacific on jet stream currents carrying pollution, soil, sediments, and other chemicals. Knowing where such dust is coming from can help us understand atmospheric circulation, contaminant pathways, and even climate patterns; but determining the point source of such dust isn’t easy.

In order to do it, a team of scientists used cathodeluminescence (CL) spectral analysis of tiny quartz grains to differentiate between the Gobi and the Taklimakan Deserts, two main Chinese dust sources. "The cathodoluminescence spectra of single quartz grains provide crystal-chemical features in quartz, such as impurities and imperfections," explains leader Kana Nagashima. Those features, she says, vary with the conditions of quartz formation and later geological events such as metamorphism.

CL spectroscopy is a technology that is able to distinguish impurities and imperfections in crystal-chemical features in quartz that depend on the conditions affecting quartz from the beginning of its formation toward present day, explains the study. Analyzing this geologic history means that the scientists can draw conclusions on which characteristics signify which source points.

Source rocks of the Gobi Desert have a lot of volcanic rock while those from the Taklimakan don’t have as much volcanic composition. Because of this known difference, the researchers collected dust grains collected from loess, riverbeds, and sand dunes; they looked at 268 quartz grains from the Gobi and 311 grains from the Taklimakan to see if the difference would carry over to the dust.

The weather phenomenon called Yellow Sand or Asian Dust has been known to engulf cities in South Korea. Photo: Stars and Stripes

The scientists had the right hunch; their results showed that certain crystal-chemical characteristics matched the percent of different rock types from each desert. This has big implications: we will now be able to use CL spectroscopy techniques in order to better comprehend the ways that dust affect global climate.

Sources: Science Daily, Geological Society of America

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 06, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Synthetic Cannabinoids and Their Effects
OCT 06, 2022
Synthetic Cannabinoids and Their Effects
What are synthetic cannabinoids and what do they do to you? Are they safe or effective?
OCT 13, 2022
Technology
Four-Legged Robots Allowed to Run in The Wild Thanks to New Algorithms
OCT 13, 2022
Four-Legged Robots Allowed to Run in The Wild Thanks to New Algorithms
In a recent study that will be presented at the 2022 International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) i ...
NOV 05, 2022
Plants & Animals
Meet The Roadrunner: Your Newest Neighbor
NOV 05, 2022
Meet The Roadrunner: Your Newest Neighbor
Equipped with a mohawk, a long sharp beak, and a quick stride the roadrunner has the tools and cunning to adapt to a rug ...
NOV 12, 2022
Earth & The Environment
45,000-Year-Old Human DNA Divulges Human Evolution Secrets
NOV 12, 2022
45,000-Year-Old Human DNA Divulges Human Evolution Secrets
In a recent study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, an international team of researchers led by the Universit ...
NOV 15, 2022
Earth & The Environment
The Life of Her Mind Episode 3: Dr. Kisha Supernant
NOV 15, 2022
The Life of Her Mind Episode 3: Dr. Kisha Supernant
  Dr. Kisha Supernant (Métis/Papaschase/British), Associate Professor at the University of Alberta, is a gro ...
NOV 18, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
DNA suggests human migration along the Atlantic coast to settle South America
NOV 18, 2022
DNA suggests human migration along the Atlantic coast to settle South America
New research based on genomic analysis suggests humans migrated along the Atlantic coast to settle parts of South Americ ...
Loading Comments...