The influence of dust on climate, through changes in the radiative properties of the atmosphere and/or the CO2 content of the oceans and atmosphere (through iron fertilisation of high nutrient, low chlorophyll, HNLC, regions of global oceans), remains a poorly quantified and actively changing element of the global climate system. Dust-cycle models presently employ a relatively simple representation of dust properties; these simplifications may severely limit the realism of simulations of the impact of changes in dust loading on either or both radiative forcing and biogeochemical cycling. Furthermore, while state-of-the-art models achieve reasonable estimates of dust deposition in the far-field (i.e. at ocean locations), they under-estimate - by an order of magnitude - levels of dust deposition over the continents, unless glaciogenic dust production is explicitly and spatially represented. 

The QUEST (Quantifying Uncertainty in the Earth System) Working Group on Dust was set up to address these issues, as a contribution to ongoing work on modelling the dust cycle on palaeo-timescales as part of two projects funded by QUEST: QUEST-DESIRE and QUEST-Deglaciation. One of the major expected contributions from the Working Group in the next few years is a significant expansion and improvement to the DIRTMAP database, in order to facilitate more rigorous evaluation and benchmarking of dust-cycle models.

Related site:

Barbara Maher  (b.maher <at>


Sandy Harrison  (Sandy.Harrison <at>






(webpage maintained by Adam Durant) Last update 7 October 2008