Three millennia of southwestern north American dustiness and future implications

Cody C. Routson, Jonathan T. Overpeck, Connie A. Woodhouse, William F. Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Two sediment records of dust deposition from Fish Lake, in southern Colorado, offer a new perspective on southwest United States (Southwest) aridity and dustiness over the last 3000 years. Micro scanning X-ray fluorescence and grain size analysis provide separate measures of wind-deposited dust in the lake sediment. Together these new records confirm anomalous dustiness in the 19th and 20th centuries, associated with recent land disturbance, drought, and livestock grazing. Before significant anthropogenic influences, changes in drought frequency and aridity also generated atmospheric dust loading. Medieval times were associated with high levels of dustiness, coincident with widespread aridity. These records indicate the Southwest is naturally prone to dustiness. As global and regional temperatures rise and the Southwest shifts toward a more arid landscape, the Southwest will likely become dustier, driving negative impacts on snowpack and water availability, as well as human health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0149573
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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