Articles | Volume 11, issue 6
Clim. Past, 11, 869–903, 2015
Clim. Past, 11, 869–903, 2015

Research article 11 Jun 2015

Research article | 11 Jun 2015

Twelve thousand years of dust: the Holocene global dust cycle constrained by natural archives

S. Albani1,2, N. M. Mahowald1, G. Winckler3,4, R. F. Anderson3,4, L. I. Bradtmiller5, B. Delmonte2, R. François6, M. Goman7, N. G. Heavens8, P. P. Hesse9, S. A. Hovan10, S. G. Kang11, K. E. Kohfeld12, H. Lu13, V. Maggi2, J. A. Mason14, P. A. Mayewski15, D. McGee16, X. Miao17, B. L. Otto-Bliesner18, A. T. Perry1, A. Pourmand19, H. M. Roberts20, N. Rosenbloom18, T. Stevens21, and J. Sun22 S. Albani et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA
  • 2Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milano, Italy
  • 3Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA
  • 4Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
  • 5Department of Environmental Studies, Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN, USA
  • 6Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 7Department of Geography and Global Studies, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA, USA
  • 8Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Hampton University, Hampton, VA, USA
  • 9Department of Environmental Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  • 10Department of Geoscience, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA, USA
  • 11State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi'an, China
  • 12School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
  • 13School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China
  • 14Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA
  • 15Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA
  • 16Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 17Illinois State Geological Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, USA
  • 18National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 19Department of Marine Geosciences, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA
  • 20Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK
  • 21Department of Earth Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 22Key laboratory of Cenozoic Geology and Environment, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Science, Beijing, China

Abstract. Mineral dust plays an important role in the climate system by interacting with radiation, clouds, and biogeochemical cycles. In addition, natural archives show that the dust cycle experienced variability in the past in response to global and local climate change. The compilation of the DIRTMAP (Dust Indicators and Records from Terrestrial and MArine Palaeoenvironments) paleodust data sets in the last 2 decades provided a benchmark for paleoclimate models that include the dust cycle, following a time slice approach. We propose an innovative framework to organize a paleodust data set that builds on the positive experience of DIRTMAP and takes into account new scientific challenges by providing a concise and accessible data set of temporally resolved records of dust mass accumulation rates and particle grain size distributions. We consider data from ice cores, marine sediments, loess–paleosol sequences, lake sediments, and peat bogs for this compilation, with a temporal focus on the Holocene period. This global compilation allows the investigation of the potential, uncertainties, and confidence level of dust mass accumulation rate reconstructions and highlights the importance of dust particle size information for accurate and quantitative reconstructions of the dust cycle. After applying criteria that help to establish that the data considered represent changes in dust deposition, 45 paleodust records have been identified, with the highest density of dust deposition data occurring in the North Atlantic region. Although the temporal evolution of dust in the North Atlantic appears consistent across several cores and suggests that minimum dust fluxes are likely observed during the early to mid-Holocene period (6000–8000 years ago), the magnitude of dust fluxes in these observations is not fully consistent, suggesting that more work needs to be done to synthesize data sets for the Holocene. Based on the data compilation, we used the Community Earth System Model to estimate the mass balance of and variability in the global dust cycle during the Holocene, with dust loads ranging from 17.2 to 20.8 Tg between 2000 and 10 000 years ago and with a minimum in the early to mid-Holocene (6000–8000 years ago).

Short summary
We propose an innovative framework to organize paleodust records, formalized in a publicly accessible database, and discuss the emerging properties of the global dust cycle during the Holocene by integrating our analysis with simulations performed with the Community Earth System Model. We show how the size distribution of dust is intrinsically related to the dust mass accumulation rates and that only considering a consistent size range allows for a consistent analysis of the global dust cycle.