12/20/23: Aerosols are drying out the Southwest US

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Featured Research

Aerosols are helping dry out the Southwest US
In the southwestern United States, winter-spring precipitation is critical for the year’s water supply, but it has been declining since the 1980s. Anthropogenic aerosols could play a significant role in the drying west, new modeling finds. [Geophysical Research Letters research]

Aerosol injections could dry Africa’s Sahel further
Injecting aerosols into the stratosphere has been proposed to help cool the Earth, but the method could have many knock-on effects. Over the Sahel, where the West African Summer Monsoon is critical for livelihoods, aerosol injection could cause problematic drying. [Earth’s Future research]

Historic corals suggest weakening Atlantic circulation
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a critical element of Earth’s climate, facilitating the exchange of heat between the northern and southern hemispheres. Anthropogenic emissions have shifted the salinity and sea surface temperature in the Gulf of Mexico, as recorded by hundreds of years of corals in the Gulf, suggesting a partial weakening of the AMOC in the 1980s. [Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology research]

Beyond Earth, mountaintops can be less cold
On Earth, frosty, snow-capped peaks are a well-known sight thanks in part to the planet’s thick atmosphere, which sets the rate at which the air cools with height. On planets with thin atmospheres, the temperatures near the surface and at mountaintops are likely more similar, with a shallower temperature gradient. [Geophysical Research Letters research]

We need to keep a better eye on dust
Dust can negatively impact air quality, human health and the environment, but it receives less attention than other forms of air pollution. This oversight is due in part to sparse and inconsistent dust monitoring stations and sampling, the authors of a new commentary argue. Improved dust monitoring is necessary to understand both its health and environmental effects as climate change increases dustiness in many regions. [GeoHealth research]

Sustainable sulfur in farming is overdue
Sulfur is widely used to protect crops against fungi, fertilize soil, and adjust farm soils’ chemical compositions. Similarly to nitrogen and phosphorus, applying too much sulfur has negative environmental impacts, but far less attention has been paid on the need for sustainable sulfur use in agriculture. Sulfur needs to be better studied and managed, the authors argue in this new review paper. [Earth’s Future research]

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