Carlos Pérez García-Pando

Barcelona Supercomputing Center - Centro Nacional de Supercomputación

In 2023, significant strides have been made to enhance our understanding of the impact of desert dust on climate with the creation of a groundbreaking map detailing mineral distribution in Earth’s desert dust- source regions. This pioneering effort holds the promise of substantially advancing scientific comprehension of desert dust and its impacts.

The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT), a pivotal NASA mission deployed in July 2022, the EMIT hyperspectral imaging spectroscometer to sample the Earth’s surface mineral composition from the International Space Station (ISS)—a feat previously unattainable. The outcomes of EMIT’s endeavors have yielded the inaugural comprehensive maps delineating the world’s mineral dust-source regions, precisely identifying the locations of 10 key minerals based on their distinct light reflection and absorption properties. As wind disperses these particles into the atmosphere, they exert nuanced influences, either cooling or warming the Earth’s surface and atmosphere contingent upon their composition. The revelation of their global abundance carries implications for understanding and predicting the future impacts of dust on climate. By illuminating these fundamental processes, EMIT is driving advancements in climate science with implications that extend far into the future.

The EMIT project has been enhanced by an ERC Consolidator Grant entitled FRAGMENT, which has implemented unprecedented implementing field campaigns in desert dust sources, deploying a comprehensive array of instruments to better understand the particle size distribution of emitted dust and its relationship with parent soil, alongside its mineralogy and optical properties. Coordinated field campaigns under FRAGMENT have taken place in Morocco, Iceland, Jordan, and the US between 2019 and 2022, yielding new insights into the emission and properties of desert dust. This wealth of information, coupled with the new EMIT maps, are expected to greatly enhance the quantification of mineral dust’s role in shaping our climate.