(ORDO NEWS) — The analysis showed that sand and soil particles from storms in arid regions could make it difficult to assess the true extent of global warming of the planet caused by emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Scientists warn that current climate models do not take into account the effect of atmospheric dust.
Dust in Earth‘s atmosphere may have masked the true extent of global warming by helping to cool the climate over the past few decades, reports The Guardian.
As the analysis showed, the volume of atmospheric dust has increased by about 55% since the middle of the 19th century.
Climatologists estimate that rising concentrations of dust have masked up to 8% of warming from carbon emissions.
Dust particles, along with synthetic particulate matter, are capable of cooling the planet in several ways. They reflect sunlight and scatter cirrus clouds that warm the Earth.
Once in the ocean, dust helps phytoplankton grow, absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.
In some cases, dust clouds can have the opposite effect. They darken snow and ice, accelerating their melting due to enhanced heat absorption.
But in other scenarios, dust contributes to the cooling of the planet, the scientists found.
Gisella Winkler, a climatologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, said their study showed that existing climate models do not take into account the role of atmospheric dust, and therefore are not very accurate.
The scientist added that they need to continue research in order to more accurately predict climate change in the coming years.
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