An ongoing project monitors modern dust accumulation in the arid southwestern United States to (1) determine the rate and composition of dust inputs to soils and (2) relate dust accumulation to weather patterns to help predict the effects of climate change on dust production and accumulation. The 16-year records of 35 dust-trap sites in the eastern Mojave Desert and southern Great Basin reveal how generation and accumulation of dust, including the silt-clay, carbonate, and soluble-salt fractions, is affected by the amount and seasonal distribution of rainfall and the behavior of different source types (alluvium, dry playas, and wet playas). Accumulation rates (fluxes) of the silt-clay fraction of dust, including carbonates, range from about 2-20 g/m2/yr. Average rates are higher in the southern part of the study area (south of latitude 36.5??N) and annually fluctuate over a larger range than rates in the northern part of the area. Sites throughout the study area show peaks in dust flux in the 1984-1985 sampling period and again in 1997-1999; northern sites also show increased flux in 1987-1988 and southern sites in 1989-1991. These peaks of dust flux correspond with both La Nina (dry) conditions and with strong El Nino (wet) periods. The accumulation rates of different components of mineral dusts fluctuate differently. For example, soluble-salt flux increases in 1987-1988, coincident with a moderate El Nino event, and increases very strongly in 1997-1999, overlapping with a strong El Nino event. Both of these high-rainfall winters were preceded and accompanied by strong summer rains. In contrast, little or no change in soluble-salt flux occurred during other periods of high winter rainfall but little summer rain, e.g. 1992-1995. The differences between northern vs. southern sites and between sites with playa dust sources vs. alluvial dust sources indicate that regional differences in the response of precipitation and vegetation growth to ENSO influence and differences in the response of source types control dust production and accumulation. A major factor is the hydrologic condition of surface sediments. The silt-clay and soluble-salt fluxes increased during the El Nino events of 1987-1988 and 1997-1998 at sites close to "wet" playas with shallow depths to groundwater (<10 m), consistent with the concept that active evaporative concentration of salts disrupts surface crusts and increases the susceptibility of surface sediment to deflation. The silt-clay flux also increased during drought periods (1989-1991, 1995-1997) at sites downwind of alluvial sources and "dry" playas with deeper groundwater (<10 m). These increases are probably related to the die-off of drought-stressed vegetation on alluvial sediments, and in some cases to local runoff events that deliver fresh sediment to playa margins and distal portions of alluvial fans. ?? 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Additional Publication Details
A 16-year record of eolian dust in Southern Nevada and California, USA: Controls on dust generation and accumulation