Large influence of dust on the Precambrian climate.
ABSTRACT: On present-day Earth, dust emissions are restricted only to a few desert regions mainly due to the distribution of land vegetation. The atmospheric dust loading is thus relatively small and has a slight cooling effect on the surface climate. For the Precambrian (before ~540?Ma), however, dust emission might be much more widespread since land vegetation was absent. Here, our simulations using an Earth system model (CESM1.2.2) demonstrate that the global dust emission during that time might be an order of magnitude larger than that of the present day, and could have cooled the global climate by ~10?°C. Similarly, the dust deposition in the ocean, an important source of nutrition for the marine ecosystem, was also increased by a factor of ~10. Therefore, dust was a critical component of the early Earth system, and should always be considered when studying the climate and biogeochemistry of the Precambrian.
Project description:Development of Archean paleosols and patterns of Precambrian rock weathering suggest colonization of continents by subaerial microbial mats long before evolution of land plants in the Phanerozoic Eon. Modern analogues for such mats, however, have not been reported, and possible biogeochemical roles of these mats in the past remain largely conceptual. We show that photosynthetic, subaerial microbial mats from Indonesia grow on mafic bedrocks at ambient temperatures and form distinct layers with features similar to Precambrian mats and paleosols. Such subaerial mats could have supported a substantial aerobic biosphere, including nitrification and methanotrophy, and promoted methane emissions and oxidative weathering under ostensibly anoxic Precambrian atmospheres. High C-turnover rates and cell abundances would have made these mats prime locations for early microbial diversification. Growth of landmass in the late Archean to early Proterozoic Eons could have reorganized biogeochemical cycles between land and sea impacting atmospheric chemistry and climate.
Project description: Since the 1980s, a dramatic downward trend in North African dustiness and transport to the tropical Atlantic Ocean has been observed by different data sets and methods. The precise causes of this trend have previously been difficult to understand, partly due to the sparse observational record. Here we show that a decrease in surface wind speeds associated with increased roughness due to more vegetation in the Sahel is the most likely cause of the observed drop in dust emission. Associated changes in turbulence and evapotranspiration, and changes in large-scale circulation, are secondary contributors. Past work has tried to explain negative correlations between North African dust and precipitation through impacts on emission thresholds due to changes in soil moisture and vegetation cover. The use of novel diagnostic tools applied here to long-term surface observations suggests that this is not the dominating effect. Our results are consistent with a recently observed global decrease in surface wind speed, known as "stilling", and demonstrate the importance of representing vegetation-related roughness changes in models. They also offer a new mechanism of how land-use change and agriculture can impact the Sahelian climate. Citation: Cowie, S. M., P. Knippertz, and J. H. Marsham (2013), Are vegetation-related roughness changes the cause of the recent decrease in dust emission from the Sahel?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 1868-1872, doi:10.1002/grl.50273.
Project description:Changing the vegetation cover of the Earth has impacts on the biophysical properties of the surface and ultimately on the local climate. Depending on the specific type of vegetation change and on the background climate, the resulting competing biophysical processes can have a net warming or cooling effect, which can further vary both spatially and seasonally. Due to uncertain climate impacts and the lack of robust observations, biophysical effects are not yet considered in land-based climate policies. Here we present a dataset based on satellite remote sensing observations that provides the potential changes i) of the full surface energy balance, ii) at global scale, and iii) for multiple vegetation transitions, as would now be required for the comprehensive evaluation of land based mitigation plans. We anticipate that this dataset will provide valuable information to benchmark Earth system models, to assess future scenarios of land cover change and to develop the monitoring, reporting and verification guidelines required for the implementation of mitigation plans that account for biophysical land processes.
Project description:Between 5 and 4 thousand years ago, crippling megadroughts led to the disruption of ancient civilizations across parts of Africa and Asia, yet the extent of these climate extremes in mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA) has never been defined. This is despite archeological evidence showing a shift in human settlement patterns across the region during this period. We report evidence from stalagmite climate records indicating a major decrease of monsoon rainfall in MSEA during the mid- to late Holocene, coincident with African monsoon failure during the end of the Green Sahara. Through a set of modeling experiments, we show that reduced vegetation and increased dust loads during the Green Sahara termination shifted the Walker circulation eastward and cooled the Indian Ocean, causing a reduction in monsoon rainfall in MSEA. Our results indicate that vegetation-dust climate feedbacks from Sahara drying may have been the catalyst for societal shifts in MSEA via ocean-atmospheric teleconnections.
Project description:Mineral dust aerosols cool Earth directly by scattering incoming solar radiation and indirectly by affecting clouds and biogeochemical cycles. Recent Earth history has featured quasi-100,000-y, glacial-interglacial climate cycles with lower/higher temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations during glacials/interglacials. Global average, glacial maxima dust levels were more than 3 times higher than during interglacials, thereby contributing to glacial cooling. However, the timing, strength, and overall role of dust-climate feedbacks over these cycles remain unclear. Here we use dust deposition data and temperature reconstructions from ice sheet, ocean sediment, and land archives to construct dust-climate relationships. Although absolute dust deposition rates vary greatly among these archives, they all exhibit striking, nonlinear increases toward coldest glacial conditions. From these relationships and reconstructed temperature time series, we diagnose glacial-interglacial time series of dust radiative forcing and iron fertilization of ocean biota, and use these time series to force Earth system model simulations. The results of these simulations show that dust-climate feedbacks, perhaps set off by orbital forcing, push the system in and out of extreme cold conditions such as glacial maxima. Without these dust effects, glacial temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentrations would have been much more stable at higher, intermediate glacial levels. The structure of residual anomalies over the glacial-interglacial climate cycles after subtraction of dust effects provides constraints for the strength and timing of other processes governing these cycles.
Project description:Globally, 15.5 million km(2) of land are currently identified as protected areas, which provide society with many ecosystem services including climate-change mitigation. Combining a global database of protected areas, a reconstruction of global land-use history, and a global biogeochemistry model, we estimate that protected areas currently sequester 0.5 Pg C annually, which is about one fifth of the carbon sequestered by all land ecosystems annually. Using an integrated earth systems model to generate climate and land-use scenarios for the twenty-first century, we project that rapid climate change, similar to high-end projections in IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, would cause the annual carbon sequestration rate in protected areas to drop to about 0.3 Pg C by 2100. For the scenario with both rapid climate change and extensive land-use change driven by population and economic pressures, 5.6 million km(2) of protected areas would be converted to other uses, and carbon sequestration in the remaining protected areas would drop to near zero by 2100.
Project description:Projected increases in aridity throughout the southwestern United States due to anthropogenic climate change will likely cause reductions in perennial vegetation cover, which leaves soil surfaces exposed to erosion. Accelerated rates of dust emission from wind erosion have large implications for ecosystems and human well-being, yet there is poor understanding of the sources and magnitude of dust emission in a hotter and drier climate. Here we use a two-stage approach to compare the susceptibility of grasslands and three different shrublands to wind erosion on the Colorado Plateau and demonstrate how climate can indirectly moderate the magnitude of aeolian sediment flux through different responses of dominant plants in these communities. First, using results from 20 y of vegetation monitoring, we found perennial grass cover in grasslands declined with increasing mean annual temperature in the previous year, whereas shrub cover in shrublands either showed no change or declined as temperature increased, depending on the species. Second, we used these vegetation monitoring results and measurements of soil stability as inputs into a field-validated wind erosion model and found that declines in perennial vegetation cover coupled with disturbance to biological soil crust resulted in an exponential increase in modeled aeolian sediment flux. Thus the effects of increased temperature on perennial plant cover and the correlation of declining plant cover with increased aeolian flux strongly suggest that sustained drought conditions across the southwest will accelerate the likelihood of dust production in the future on disturbed soil surfaces.
Project description:Regional, state, and local environmental regulatory agencies often use Eulerian models to investigate the potential impacts on pollutant deposition and air quality from changes in land use, anthropogenic and natural emissions, and climate. The Noah land surface model (LSM) in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is widely used with the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model for such investigations, but there are many inconsistencies that need to be changed so that they are consistent with dry deposition and emission processes. In this work, the Noah LSM in WRFv3.8.1 is improved in its linkage to CMAQv5.2 by adding important parameters to the WRF/Noah output, updating the WRF soil and vegetation reference tables that influence CMAQ wet and dry photochemical deposition processes, and decreasing WRF/Noah's top soil layer depth to be consistent with CMAQ processes (e.g., windblown dust and bidirectional ammonia exchange). The modified WRF/Noah-CMAQ system (both off-line and coupled) impacts meteorological predictions of 2-m temperature (T2; increases and decreases), 2-m mixing ratio (Q2; decreases), and 10-m wind speed (WSPD10; decreases) in the United States. These changes are mostly driven by leaf area index values and aerodynamic roughness lengths updated in the vegetation tables based on satellite data, with additional impacts from soil tables updated based on recent soil data. Improvements in the consistency in the treatment of land surface processes between CMAQ and WRF resulted in improvements in both estimated meteorological (e.g., T2, WSPD10, and latent heat fluxes) and chemical (e.g., ozone, sulfur dioxide, and windblown dust) model estimates.
Project description:The Amazon rainforest is disproportionately important for global carbon storage and biodiversity. The system couples the atmosphere and land, with moist forest that depends on convection to sustain gross primary productivity and growth. Earth system models that estimate future climate and vegetation show little agreement in Amazon simulations. Here we show that biases in internally generated climate, primarily precipitation, explain most of the uncertainty in Earth system model results; models, empirical data and theory converge when precipitation biases are accounted for. Gross primary productivity, above-ground biomass and tree cover align on a hydrological relationship with a breakpoint at ~2000?mm annual precipitation, where the system transitions between water and radiation limitation of evapotranspiration. The breakpoint appears to be fairly stable in the future, suggesting resilience of the Amazon to climate change. Changes in precipitation and land use are therefore more likely to govern biomass and vegetation structure in Amazonia.Earth system model simulations of future climate in the Amazon show little agreement. Here, the authors show that biases in internally generated climate explain most of this uncertainty and that the balance between water-saturated and water-limited evapotranspiration controls the Amazon resilience to climate change.
Project description:State-of-the-art measurements of the direction and intensity of Earth's ancient magnetic field have made important contributions to our understanding of the geology and palaeogeography of Precambrian Earth. The PALEOMAGIA and PINT(QPI) databases provide thorough public collections of important palaeomagnetic data of this kind. They comprise more than 4,100 observations in total and have been essential in supporting our international collaborative efforts to understand Earth's magnetic history on a timescale far longer than that of the present Phanerozoic Eon. Here, we provide an overview of the technical structure and applications of both databases, paying particular attention to recent improvements and discoveries.