An increase in dust storms is a health hazard caused by several factors, including anthropogenic climate change. Dust storms also affect fisheries, aviation, and agriculture.
Dust storms are a health hazard.
The dehydration of soil results in increased dust storms. The increased dust content in the atmosphere changes ocean currents and wind patterns, resulting in new sources and destinations for storms. In many places, dust is blown onto snowfields by wind, causing streaks of red and brown to appear on the surface. For example, in the Rocky Mountains, five times more dust was blown onto the landscape from 2005 to 2008. The darker snow can absorb more sunlight and extend the growing season, causing plants to use more water. Finally, this increased dust can be blown back into the atmosphere.
As dust carries various pollutants, it can have multiple health effects. In addition to the harmful effects on human health, dust can cause damage to the built infrastructure. Moreover, it can corrode structures and contribute to environmental problems, as it contains a high concentration of salts. This poor air quality can cause several health effects, such as asthma, and affect the marine life cycle.
Researchers have shown that increasing dust concentrations in the atmosphere poses a significant health hazard. While dust storms from the Sahara are not uncommon during the summer months, the magnitude of this storm in 2020 was nearly twice that of the one in 2019. The causes of this increase are not yet clear, but scientists do know that anthropogenic climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of dust storms globally.
Recent research suggests that climate change and human activity are directly responsible for the dehydration of deserts. During the period from 1975 to 1987, the rate of desertification in China was almost two hundred kilometers per year. As a result of the high prevalence of dust storms, many Chinese residents have asthma and sore throats. In addition, dust storms have been associated with airborne pathogenic microorganisms and heavy metals.
They are caused by anthropogenic climate change.
The increasing frequency of dust storms is attributed to the growing arid land in the world. Earlier, the Gobi Desert covered a majority of the country. Due to the ever-increasing dry land, dust storms have doubled or even tripled in the past four decades. These dust storms have become a cause of concern for some countries, including Mongolia. In the United States, a study showed that dust storms in the Midwest are increasing in number and intensity, while they are declining in the southwestern U.S.
While contemporary land-use management has affected the activity of dust storms in the Midwest, it has not impacted dust events in the Gobi Desert and northern China. However, climate change-induced changes in land-use management and land-cover change are likely to contribute to the increased frequency of dust storms in Asia.
While we can’t prevent the effects of dust storms, we can help mitigate their negative impact by promoting more effective land management. The essential steps in preventing dust storms are improving communication and reforestation. Comprehensive research on the interplay between the environment, the climate, and the dust will be needed to avoid the negative consequences of unsustainable land management. Further, global cooperation mechanisms need to be strengthened to prevent unexpected climate impacts.
They affect aviation and fisheries.
The impact of increased dust storms is already being felt in many parts of the world. A massive increase in sheep and goats has increased dust storm frequency in China, and the country is also planting tens of millions of trees to combat desertification. These dust storms already have dramatic effects in other areas of the world. In addition to affecting aviation, fisheries, and the environment, they may also impact fisheries.
In the West, dust storms are not unprecedented, but they are generally much smaller in scale. However, scientists are concerned that climate change will make these dust storms more frequent and worse. An increase in dust storms is linked to warmer sea surface temperatures in the North Pacific.
An increase in dust storms is a result of climate change, according to a study published in 2020. The researchers analyzed satellite imagery to find the hotspots of dust. The study revealed that agricultural areas are hotspots for dust storms, and cultivated fields likely contribute to this occurrence. This is particularly important for agriculture because dust storms affect aviation and fisheries.
They affect agriculture
An increase in dust storms is an alarming development. Dust is a natural phenomenon that occurs when windstorms blow soils away. These dust storms are particularly problematic for agriculture in drylands. They are also a significant cause of car accidents, as dust clouds reduce visibility. And the cases of car crash victims are increasing as well, as they seek compensation from farmers who neglect good farming practices.
The increase in dust storms is a symptom of a severe drought. The Dust Bowl drought in the 1930s, for example, covered 75% of North America. This drought began with the expansion of agriculture, transforming the Great Plains into an arid, windy region. Farmers replaced the native grasses of the Plains with wheat crops. The resulting crop fields were exposed to the wind force and were destroyed by the drought.
Between 1975 and 1987, China’s desertification rate was about 2100 km2 per year. It’s not surprising that many people in China and other parts of the world suffer from respiratory and heart conditions after dust storms. Dust storms also contain airborne pathogenic microorganisms and heavy metals.
The causes of sandstorms vary from region to region and primarily depend on human activities. Wind velocity and soil dryness are essential factors determining the intensity of dust emissions. Prospero et al. 2002 found that in the spring of 2021, winds reached up to 18 to 34 m/s in the Uvurkhangai and Dundgovi regions of Mongolia. In addition to those two states, there were substantial wind speeds in Arkhangai, Bayankhongor, and Govi-Altai.
They affect human ecosystems.
The Saharan region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with high levels of dust and drought affecting human ecosystems across the world. To investigate the effects of climate change on human health and ecosystems, scientists have studied dust storms from the past 11,000 years, comparing them to current conditions. They found that the dustiness of the region peaked in the mid-1800s, uncorrelated with drought records. The study also found that human activity and land use significantly influence dust accumulation, and the number of cattle grazing in the region makes these emissions more sensitive to droughts.
An increase in dust storms due to climate change can also lead to desertification, where areas without dense vegetation cover are exposed to high levels of dust. The most prominent example of this phenomenon is the depletion of the Aral Sea, which was once the fourth largest lake globally. Moreover, the dust is full of heavy metals and airborne pathogenic microorganisms, negatively affecting human health.
In addition to contributing to desertification, dust storms also harm the oceans. The warmer ocean temperatures have caused a decline in the amount of dust in the Sahara and parts of South and North America. In the U.S., increasing rainfall levels in the desert regions will reduce dust storms. The increased rainfall will help sustain plant growth, which will cap the soil and prevent erosion.
In addition to causing soil erosion and a decline in agricultural productivity, increased dust impacts human health. It has been linked to increased Valley Fever cases in the desert because dust from dust storms can cause exposure to a fungus that lives in desert soils. Moreover, the dust has a significant negative impact on agriculture, burying seedlings and reducing photosynthetic activity.