Nature Reviews Earth & Environment: The impacts of mineral dust aerosols on global climate and climate change

13 February 2023

The impacts of mineral dust aerosols on global climate and climate change


Mineral dust aerosols impact the energy budget of Earth through interactions with radiation, clouds, atmospheric chemistry, the cryosphere and biogeochemistry. In this Review, we summarize these interactions and assess the resulting impacts of dust, and of changes in dust, on global climate and climate change. The total effect of dust interactions on the global energy budget of Earth — the dust effective radiative effect — is −0.2 ± 0.5 W m2 (90% confidence interval), suggesting that dust net cools the climate. Global dust mass loading has increased 55 ± 30% since pre-industrial times, driven largely by increases in dust from Asia and North Africa, leading to changes in the energy budget of Earth. Indeed, this increase in dust has produced a global mean effective radiative forcing of −0.07 ± 0.18 W m2, somewhat counteracting greenhouse warming. Current climate models and climate assessments do not represent the historical increase in dust and thus omit the resulting radiative forcing, biasing climate change projections and assessments of climate sensitivity. Climate model simulations of future changes in dust diverge widely and are very uncertain. Further work is thus needed to constrain the radiative effects of dust on climate and to improve the representation of dust in climate models.

Kok, J.F., Storelvmo, T., Karydis, V.A. et al. Mineral dust aerosol impacts on global climate and climate change. 

Nat Rev Earth Environ 4, 71–86 (2023).

17 November 2022

17 January 2023

Issue Date
February 2023

Barcelona Dust Regional Center