Saharan dust is persistently transported and deposited in ecosystems of the western Atlantic Ocean. This dust is an aggregate of clay and quartz particles cemented with Fe oxides. Samples collected and analyzed from Mali (central Africa), the Azores, the Caribbean and the Eastern United States document the levels of minor and trace metals in the dust. Metal loadings, particularly the toxic elements - Hg and As, are significantly higher than average crustal rocks. Over the past decade, the focus has been to understand the cycling of Hg in south Florida, but As has received very little attention. Arsenic in the sediment deposited in the past decade in south Florida averages 14 mg/kg and appears to be correlated with Al, a proxy for dust. The largest available aerosol data set containing As is the IMPROVE (Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments) data set. The average concentrations in aerosols collected during this program range from 17 mg/kg in the Virgin Islands to 79 mg/kg at Chassahowitzka, Florida. At Chassahowitzka, most of the As appears to be associated with organic C. If it is assumed that the concentrations in Mali dust and in the aerosols in the Virgin Islands are indicative of soil dust, then the higher values at Chassahowitzka may be derived from local or regional sources. A simple calculation indicates that African dust supplies about 25% of the As deposited from aerosols in the southeastern United States. Comparison of the average yearly As concentrations measured in the Virgin Islands and Everglades shows a negative relationship with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). This relationship demonstrates the influence of climate on the transport and deposition of aerosols to the southeastern United States.
Additional publication details
Atmospherically transported elements and deposition in the Southeastern United States: Local or transoceanic?