North African mineral dust across the tropical Atlantic Ocean: Insights from dust particle size, radiogenic Sr-Nd-Hf isotopes and rare earth elements (REE)

Michèlle van der Does, Ali Pourmand, Arash Sharifi, Jan Berend W. Stuut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Large amounts of mineral dust are exported from North Africa across the Atlantic Ocean, impacting the atmosphere and ocean during transport and after deposition through biogeochemical processes. In order to characterize the isotopic signature of dust from different seasons and years, in relation to their bulk particle size, and to obtain a general idea of its provenance, Saharan dust was collected using subsurface sediment traps moored in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean in 2012–2013, and by shipboard aerosol collection during three trans-Atlantic research cruises in 2005, 2012 and 2015. The samples were analysed for radiogenic Strontium (Sr), Neodymium (Nd), and Hafnium (Hf) isotopes, rare earth element (REE; La-Lu) abundances and particle size. In addition, soil sediments from Mauritania, a potential source area, were analysed and compared to the Atlantic dust samples. The results indicate no relation between Sr and Nd isotopic compositions and dust particle size. In contrast, Hf isotopic compositions show a strong relation with particle size, associated to the so-called zircon effect. We explored alternative sources of lithogenic particles to the sediment traps such as Amazon River sediments. Our results reveal that the sediment-trap samples bear distinctly different geochemical signatures from sediments from the Amazon Basin and Amazon River tributaries, and confirm that the primary source of lithogenic particles is northern Africa. The collected dust samples show close relations to African dust aerosols collected at Barbados and samples from the Bodélé Depression, although differences between seasons are observed, which we relate to differences in source areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-116
Number of pages11
JournalAeolian Research
StatePublished - Aug 2018



  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Mineral dust
  • Rare earth elements
  • Sahara
  • Sr-Nd-Hf isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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