INQUA 'Dust and Climate' WORKING GROUP (Project No. 1212):


Prof. B A Maher, Lancaster Environment Centre, University of Lancaster, Farrer Avenue, Lancaster, LA1 4YQ, U.K.,; fax:(0044) 1524 510269 (S, terrestrial and marine dust records).


Dr Diego Gaiero, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina, (ECS, dust provenance, isotope tracing).

Dr Natalie Mahowald, 2140 Snee Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA,, Phone: 607-255-5166 (S, modeler).

Quick Links

International participation (country, person, affiliation, role)
Main objectives
Specific goals
Planned workshops/meetings
Anticipated results
Links to other INQUA or non-INQUA Projects
DIRTMAP 3 Recently Updated, Please see new web link under section (2) below
Co-sponsorship/additional funding

Contact Us


Description: Affect of Dust on Climate

The influence of dust on climate, through changes in the radiative properties of the atmosphere and/or the CO2 content of the oceans and atmosphere (through iron fertilisation of high nutrient, low chlorophyll, HNLC, regions of the world's oceans), remains a poorly quantified and actively changing element of the Earth's climate system. Dust-cycle models presently employ a relatively simple representation of dust properties; these simplifications may severely limit the realism of simulations of the impact of changes in dust loading on either or both radiative forcing and biogeochemical cycling. Further, whilst state-of-the-art models achieve reasonable estimates of dust deposition in the far-field (i.e. at ocean locations), they under-estimate - by an order of magnitude- levels of dust deposition over the continents, unless glacigenic dust production is explicitly and spatially represented. This 'DIRTMAP3' working group aims to address these problems directly, through a series of explicitly interacting contributions from the modelling and palaeo-data communities (see Objectives list below).


International participation (country, person, affiliation, role)

UK, Achterberg, Eric, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, SS (marine biologist).

Italy, Albani, Samuel, Universitą degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, PhD

US, Anderson, Robert, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, S (geologist)

France, Yves Balkanski, LSCE/IPSL, Laboratoire CEA-CNRS-UVSQ, S (modeler)

US, Ballantyne, Ashley, University of Colorado at Boulder, SS (geologist)

USA, Jim Beget, University of Alaska, SS (terrestrial palaeo-dust records)

USA, Art Bettis, University of Iowa, SS (terrestrial palaeo-dust records)

France, Bory, Aloys, Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille, S (geosystems)

UK, Joanna Bullard, Loughborough University, SS (geomorphology, dust emissions)**

Germany, Peter Croot, GEOMAR, ECR (dust and ocean biogeochemistry)

US, Crusius, John, USGS, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, SS

Australia, De Deckker, Patrick, The Australian National University, SS (dust)

US, DeMenocal, Peter, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, SS (geoscientist)

Italy, Barbara Delmonte, University of Milan, ECR (dust provenance, isotope tracing)

UK, Adam Durant, Cambridge University, ECR (modeler)

Switzerland, Hubertus Fischer, SS (dust in ice cores)

USA, Santiago Gasso, NASA, ECR (remote sensing of dust)

Israel, Hezi Gildor, Weizmann Institute, SS (modeler)

US. Ginoux, Paul, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, SS (modeler)

Australia, Paul Hesse, Macquarie University, SS (terrestrial and marine palaeo-dust records)

Canada, Karen Kohfeld, Simon Fraser University, SS (data synthesis)

Korea, Jeong, Gi, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Korea, SS (mineralogy)

US, Koffman, Bess, University of Maine, ECR (dust in ice cores)

Israel, Ilan Koren, Weizmann Institute, SS (modeler, clouds)

New Zealand, Doug Mackie, University of Otago, ECR (dust and ocean biogeochemistry)

Switzerland, Martinez-G, Alfredo, ETH Zürich, ECR (geoscientist, dust and climate)

US, Mason, Joseph, University of Wisconsin-Madison, SS (

US, McGee, David, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, ECR (dust in sediments)

US, Measures, Christopher, University of Hawai`i at Manoa, SS (geochemistry)

Germany, Merkel, Ute, University of Bremen, ECR (Geosystem Modelling)

US, Miller, Ron, NASA Godd Inst SS (modeler)

US, Moy, Christopher, Woods Hole Coastal & Marine Science Center, SS (coastal geochemistry)

US, Mukhopadhyay, Sujoy, Harvard University ECR (Geochemistry)

US, Murray, Rick, Boston University SS (

Spain, Rosell-Mele, Antoni, Autonomous University of Barcelona, SS (

France, Jean-Robert Petit, LGGE-CNRS Université Joseph Fourier-Grenoble, SS (ice cores)

USA, Joe Prospero, University of Miami, SS (terrestrial and marine dust fluxes and records)

UK, Helen Roberts, University of Wales, Aberysytwyth, ECR (luminescence dating)

France, Dennis Rousseau, Laboratoire de météorologie dynamique,  SS (loess records)

Germany, Kirsten Schepanski, Liepzig, ECR (modeler)**

Germany, Jan-Berend Stuut, University of Bremen, S (marine dust records)

China, Youbin Sun, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ECR (loess records)

UK, Dr Martin Todd, University College London, ECR (modeller) **

Italy, Paul Vallelonga, University of Venice, ECR (dust provenance, isotope tracing)

USA, Gisela Winckler, Lamont Doherty, New York, SS (dust fluxes, provenance).

Associate members:

Germany, Anna Wegner, AWI, PhD
USA, Jason Addison, Alaska, PhD
USA, Jeff Benowitz, Alaska, PhD
France, Maxime Debret, UJF-Grenoble, PhD
USA, Sebastian Engelstaedter, Cornell, PD

Note: PhD = PhD student, PD = postdoctoral researcher, ECS = Early Career Scientist, S = scientist


Main objectives

(1) DIRTMAP ('Dust Indicators and Records of Terrestrial and Marine Palaeoenvironments') database

Recent international evaluation of the current DIRTMAP database indicates that a considerable amount of new data (spatial, temporal) exists which need to be incorporated to improve our ability to evaluate dust-cycle models. DIRTMAP3 will be enhanced with: new data from e.g. South America, Eurasia and the Middle East, and from the Southern Hemisphere in the marine realm; with dust fluxes from time slices beyond the LGM and from higher resolution sediment sequences (e.g. at Dansgaard/Oeschger cycle resolution); with information regarding possible source, mineralogy (especially iron oxides, with regard both to radiative properties and bioavailability of iron), and clastic grain size.

Description: Affect of Dust on Climate


(2) Protocols will be developed to enable quality-control evaluation of the DIRTMAP3 data, via addition of key metadata (e.g. site stratigraphy and quality control information including age control, in situ disturbance, aeolian vs non-aeolian contributions etc). This requires inputs from the original and new DIRTMAP contributors, solicited and compiled through our international network of palaeo-data researchers. NEW: THE DIRTMAP DATABASE HAS NOW BEEN INSTALLED AS A USER-FRIENDLY WEB-BASED SITE:

Please note that new site works best with Chrome or Firefox. Please use the feedback form on the site for any comments, corrections, queries, new data etc.


(3) There is a clear need for new field studies to gain information now required for development of improved dust-cycle models, and contribute to the new questions regarding radiative and biogechemical dust-climate interactions. The Dust and Climate working group will seek to frame a prioritization of future studies around key science questions and hypothesis- testing.

(4) Geomorphic studies indicate that the modelling approach to defining preferential dust-source areas is both simplistic and incomplete. DIRTMAP4 palaeo-data and modelling researchers will combine to identify how dust source variability could be parameterized in a modeling context, and identify key regions requiring significantly improved source area characterization.

(5) State-of-the-art dust-cycle models need to incorporate better characterization of dust properties (including size distribution, mineralogy – especially with regard to iron oxides, and particle shape). The Dust and Climate WG group, with its internationally-distributed regional experts, can make a large contribution to both collating present data and driving new data collection.

Description: Affect of Dust on Climate

(6) Currently, no standards exist for 'benchmarking' of dust-cycle models. This requires definition of protocols for the datasets used, for comparison methods and for dealing with uncertainties both in the observations and in the models. The WG group will work to establish such these required protocols on an international, and explicitly combined data/model basis.

(7) Many palaeo-questions require new types of dust-cycle model simulations, notably, transient simulations with fully-coupled climate-dust models, and also meso-scale modeling, for example, in order to simulate patterns of dust transport and deposition over the continents. Interactions between the WG palaeo-researchers, biogeochemists and the modellers will frame the new experiments and evaluate their outcomes.


Specific goals

Description: Affect of Dust on Climate

Atmospheric dust fluxes to the oceans estimated by Duce et al. (1991)

(1) Provide the means for 'benchmarking' of dust cycle model simulations by producing an updated version of the DIRTMAP database ('DIRTMAP4'), incorporating (a) records and age models newly available since ~ 2001, (b) longer records, and especially high-resolution records, that will target time windows also focused on by other international research programs (e.g. DO8/9, MIS5), (c) metadata to allow quality-control issues to be dealt with objectively, (d) information on mineralogy and isotopes relevant to provenancing, radiative forcing and iron bioavailability, and (e) enhanced characterisation of the aeolian component of existing records. This update will be coordinated with work (led by Karen Kohfeld) to expand the DIRTMAP database to incorporate information on marine productivity and improved sedimentation rate estimation techniques. It will also build upon a recently-developed dust model evaluation tool for current climate (e.g. Miller et al. 2006) to enable application of this and other evaluative models to palaeoclimate simulations.

(2) Lead international liaison between groups working on characterisation of the land surface, and assess the feasibility of producing a global map of source-area characteristics which could be used as a basis for devising a new model parameterisation of preferential dust sources.

(3) Address, through carefully designed experiments, the impact of changing dust loads on radiative forcing during the Late Quaternary and through careful evaluation of these experiments assess the level of confidence that can be placed in the predictions of the impact of future changes in dust loading.

(4) Address the major issue of iron bioavailability in dust, and iron fertilisation of high nutrient, low chlorophyll ocean regions, by direct interaction with other international groups, e.g. within SOLAS and iLEAPS, to ensure maximum data-transfer/sharing and synergies with these groups.

Description: from Winckler et al., 2008, Science, 320, 93-96

from Winckler et al., 2008, Science, 320, 93-96



Description: Affect of Dust on Climate

§  Website-based data collation and research communication.

§  Exchange visits by young scientists within the working group. We will encourage and facilitate younger scientists within the working group to make short (one to two week) visits to other members.

§  Annual workshops, co-organised by young scientists (see details below), focused on specific issues. Each workshop will produce one joint-authored synthesis paper for publication in an INQUA-sponsored journal.

§  Joint publications, initiated at the workshops and spearheaded by individual members of the working group


§  Workshop: 'Dust-source characterization and modelling', Villefranche-sur-Mer, October 2008. Workshop organized by Adam Durant (Bristol)

Š             Workshop:  'DUSTSPEC: Dust records for a warming world'. Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. Organizers: Gisela Winckler, Natalie Mahowald, Barbara Maher, 24-26 May 2010. Co-sponsored by the NOAA-funded Abrupt Climate Change in a Warming World (ACCWW) program at L-DEO and INQUA (Winckler et al.,2010;

§  Dust-cycle session at INQUA Congress, Bern 2011

§  Workshop: 'Dust emission factors and parameterization, African sources'  Loughborough University, June 2013, organizer: Prof J Bullard.


New/upcoming activities

Inter-laboratory visits by early-career staff (May 2014 onwards, funding to be announced shortly)

Description: Dome C  ICE CORE, Gaspari et al. (2006), Geophysical Research Letters, 33, (L03704) 2006.

Dome C ICE CORE, Gaspari et al. (2006), Geophysical Research Letters, 33, (L03704) 2006.


Anticipated results

§  Synthesis of newly available data documenting changes in dust sources, fluxes and properties during the Late Quaternary

§  Improved modelling tools to address questions about the dust cycle

§  Better understanding of the role of dust in past climate changes

§  Quantification of the magnitude of dust forcing, and resulting changes in climate, in the past and in the future


Background information on DIRTMAP3

Citation: to reference the DIRTMAP'4' database, please use the following convention: " Maher, BA, Kohfeld, K. and Leedal, DT, 2014, 'DIRTMAP' Version 4, LGM and late Holocene Aeolian Fluxes from Ice Cores, Marine Sediment Traps, Marine Sediments and Loess Deposits. "

To participate in the project, or for additional information please contact:

Professor Barbara A Maher
Centre for Environmental Magnetism & Palaeomagnetism
Lancaster Environment Centre
University of Lancaster
Farrer Avenue


Tel: +44 (0)1524 510268
Fax: +44 (0)1524 510269


Links to other INQUA or non-INQUA Projects

Sand seas and dune fields of the world: a digital Quaternary atlas
Leader: Nicholas Lancaster, Desert Research Institute, United States
INQUA Project 0704.


Some Working Group Publications (published and in press):

J. Crusius, A.W. Schroth; S. Gassó; C.M. Moy, R.C. Levy, M. Gatica (2011) Glacial flour dust storms in the Gulf of Alaska: Hydrologic and meteorological controls and their importance as a source of bioavailable iron. GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 38, L06602, 5 PP., 2011 doi:10.1029/2010GL046573

A. Martínez-Garcia, A. Rosell-Melé, S. L. Jaccard, W. Geibert, D. M. Sigman and G. H. Haug (2011). Southern Ocean dust-climate coupling over the past 4 million years. Nature. 476, 312–315, doi:10.1038/nature10310 []


Maher, B.A. (2011) A review of magnetic properties of Quaternary aeolian dusts and sediments and their Quaternary palaeoclimatic significance.  Aeolian Research, 3, 87-144.


Okin GS; Bullard JE; Reynolds RL; Ballantine JAC; Schepanski K; Todd MC; Belnap J; Baddock MC; Gill TE; Miller ME (2011), "Dust: Small-scale processes with global consequences", EOS Transactions of the AGU, p. 241-242, vol. 92.


Youbin Sun, Steven C. Clemens, Carrie Morrill, Xiaopei Lin, XulongWang and Zhisheng An (in press). Influence of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation on the East Asian winter monsoon. Nature Geoscience.


Joanna E. Bullard, Sandy P. Harrison, Matthew C. Baddock, Nick Drake,Thomas E. Gill, Grant McTainsh, and Youbin Sun (2011) Preferential dust sources: A geomorphological classification designed for use in global dust-cycle models. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 116, F04034, doi:10.1029/2011JF002061

Gassó, S., Stein, A., Marino, F., Castellano, E., Udisti, R., and Ceratto, J. (2010).  A combined observational and modeling approach to study modern dust transport from the Patagonia desert to East Antarctica, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 8287-8303, doi:10.5194/acp-10-8287-2010, 2010.

Winckler, G., Mahowald, N. & Maher, B.A. (2010),  Toward New Frontiers in Understanding the Link Between Dust and Climate, Eos Trans. AGU, 91 (40), p. 360.


Maher, B.A., Prospero, J., Mackie, D., Gaiero, D.M., Hesse, P.P. & Balkanski, Y. (2010).  Global connections between aeolian dust, climate and ocean biogeochemistry at the present day and at the last glacial maximum. Earth-Science Reviews. 99, 61-97. doi:org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2009.12.001


Maher, B.A. & Harrison, S.P. (2009), 'Mineral Dust and Climate', EOS, TRANSACTIONS AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION, VOL. 90, NO. 16, doi:10.1029/2009EO160003.


Durant, A., Harrison, S.P., Maher, B.A. & Balkanski, Y. (2008). The QUEST working group on dust and the future of dust-cycle research.  CLIVAR Exchanges.


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