NASA to study dust on Earth from space to control climate

Sand dust that appears in deserts around the world rises into the atmosphere and is transported by the wind to other regions of the Earth and even into the oceans. But how this dust cycle affects climate change is still not known. Therefore, NASA sent to the ISS aboard the next SpaceX cargo ship a special EMIT device, which will have to study the digging cycle on the planet and measure the level of its impact on the climate.

Scientists believe that dust particles can change the temperature on the planet, but it is not yet clear in what direction. Therefore, the new EMIT instrument will make a billion observations of dust on Earth over the course of a year to find out whether the dust contributes to cooling or vice versa warming the planet.

The sandy dust that the winds carry away from the desert regions of the planet is actually very useful for living ecosystems. For example, micro-organisms feed on dust, in the oceans dust promotes algae blooms, and even helps rainforests grow and develop. But at the same time, dust accelerates the melting of ice.

Sometimes dust particles kicked up by strong winds in the desert can create powerful dust storms called haboobs. They create poor visibility and are also harmful to human health.

“Now the climate is changing, more and more arid regions appear and, accordingly, more and more dust rises into the atmosphere. And perhaps this dust can hold more heat, or vice versa, contribute to the fact that the sun’s rays go back into space and do not heat the planet so much,” says Gregory Okin of NASA.

According to scientists, a new device on the ISS called EMIT will help to find out exactly what kind of dust is in the atmosphere and from which regions of the planet it gets there the most.

“The dust cycle on Earth is simply huge in its scale. But we need to start paying special attention to dust. The operation of the device will be considered successful if we can determine how much solar energy remains in the atmosphere or how much leaves it. This phenomenon is called radiative forcing,” — Okin says.

Scientists using the EMIT instrument will be able to significantly expand their knowledge of dust on Earth, and will also be able to find out the exact composition of the dust particles that prevail in the atmosphere.


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