[Coral-List] FW: It's an ill wind [dust clouds drifting from Africa to the Car ibbean have a dangerous secret - bacteria and microbes] (Guardian, 12/2/2 004)
Bprecht at pbsj.com
Fri Dec 3 10:57:10 EST 2004
To all following the dust -
It's an ill wind
The dust clouds drifting from Africa to the Caribbean have a dangerous
secret - bacteria and microbes that leave a trail of disease in their wake.
Ian Sample reports
Thursday December 2, 2004
"The dust falls in such quantities as to dirty everything on board, and to
hurt people's eyes; vessels even have run on shore owing to the obscurity
of the atmosphere. It has often fallen on ships when several hundred miles
from the coast of Africa, and at points 1,600 miles distant in a north and
Charles Darwin's note from 1832 suggests the dust clouds that engulfed HMS
Beagle as it anchored in St Jago in the Cape de Verd Islands off the
African coast were dramatic, if unsettling. But they were by no means freak
events. Such clouds - which can be as large as the Spanish mainland - form
all year round, as dust is whipped up from the continent's arid savannahs
and carried across the north Atlantic to the Caribbean and beyond.
The dust blowing off Africa contributes most of some 2bn tonnes' worth
shunted around the atmosphere each year (the rest originating in Asia,
South America, the US and Australia). But while those immediately downwind
of the clouds know well the mayhem they can cause, new research is
revealing a hitherto unforeseen danger the dust clouds may pose.
Suspicions were raised back in the 1990s when Eugene Shinn, a scientist
with the US Geological Survey in St Petersburg, Florida, was reviewing a
series of environmental knocks that had hit the Caribbean in previous
years. First, the coral reefs had gone into serious decline, then the sea
urchins dwindled. Finally, a smattering of disease outbreaks struck the
region's marine life. Many scientists believed that for each event, a
change in the local environment was to blame. But Shinn thought otherwise.
What if there was one cause behind them all?
Cut - remainder of article can be found on the link below
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