CICERO - Center for International Climate Research

ARIDITY - The role of anthropogenic dust in the present and future climate system

Dust is the most abundant species of aerosol in the atmosphere. While mineral dust from deserts is the largest source, an important but less well-studied component is soil dust from sparsely vegetated surfaces. Commonly referred to as “anthropogenic dust”, arising from the influence of human activities on land surfaces and subsequent increase in wind erosion and dust emissions, this source is believed to contribute a substantial fraction to the total global dust load. However, the contribution and climate impact of anthropogenic dust, through interactions with radiation, clouds and precipitation, is poorly quantified.

Concurrently, large changes in the environmental and socioeconomic drivers of anthropogenic dust emissions are projected in the coming decades, including land-based climate mitigation measures. The uncertainties surrounding anthropogenic dust hamper our ability to accurately model global dust levels, quantify aerosol radiative forcing and project climate implications of anthropogenic pressures on the land surface. ARIDITY will constrain this uncertainty by rigorously exploring sensitivities to poorly known physical dust parameters, leverage a growing body of observations, and integrate the resulting insights with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways to provide a novel bound on the potential future climate influence of anthropogenic dust. ARIDITY sits at the nexus of two of the critical challenges for climate science: Reducing aerosol radiative forcing uncertainty, and understanding land-atmosphere-climate interactions. By bringing together experts in aerosol modeling, observations and process parameterization, and developing novel methodologies and tools, ARIDITY will deliver knowledge beyond the current scientific frontier, and bridge science-policy gaps in climate mitigation.


This project is financed by Forskningsrådet.