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Dust storms have increased ten-fold
Researcher blames human nature for disturbing Mother Nature
Anna Chan

This image from NASA shows how dust blown from the Sahara has crossed the Atlantic and covered the Cape Verde Islands.

A researcher at the University of Oxford, UK says that dust storms are caused by human disturbances to Mother Nature. Professor Andrew Goudie presented his study about dust storms at the 2004 International Geographic Congress.
As much as three billion tonnes of dust is blown around the world annually. Professor Goudie lists “Toyota-isation” as a major cause to the ten-fold increase of dust storms that originate from Saharan Africa. The professor coined the term to describe the increasing number of four-wheel drive vehicles that have replaced camels as the means of transportation in the desert.

“The desert surfaces have been stable for thousands of years because they usually have a thin layer of lichen or algae, or gravel from which the fine sand has blown away. Once these surfaces are breached you get down to the fine sand again, which can be picked up by the wind,” says Professor Goudie.

The damaging effects from the Sahara have reached as far as the Caribbean, smothering and destroying the coral reefs there. Dust storms from this desert has also been found in Greenland, where the dark dust saturates the air above the white ice, absorbing the sun’s heat and causing the melting of ice caps and raising of sea levels to be accelerated.

Deforestation and overgrazing were mentioned alongside “Toyota-isation” as factors that have added to the increased number of these natural calamities.

And now that the stillness has been disturbed, tree-planting and other control measures that some countries like China are desperately trying, have not settled the dust. Dust storms continue to churn from deserts in the north of China, including the Lupnor nuclear test site, potentially carrying radioactive particles across Beijing and beyond.

If the cycle continues as it has, the large amounts of fine particles that are swept to high altitudes and carried away by the wind will land in the seas, encouraging plankton growth which absorbs carbon dioxide. This is a major cause of greenhouse gas, and could lead to cooling of the ocean surface, fewer clouds and less rain - the ideal conditions for more dust storms to develop.

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