Atmospheres & Climate

Dusty Iron in the Ancient Oceans

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
December 27, 2019
Filed under , , , ,
Dusty Iron in the Ancient Oceans
Skies turned temporarily red in Alexander Bay, South Africa, as a thick plume of dust blew through the town on October 21, 2018.– NASA

A recent study examines the affect of dust-borne iron on primary productivity in the oceans of the ancient Earth.

Researchers looked at Moscovian (315.2 to 307 million years ago) and Asselian (298.9 and 295 million years ago) strata that originated from the southeastern mid-latitudes of the supercontinent, Pangea. The team examined the concentrations of dust, iron, autotrophic content, and bacterial biomarkers in samples. The results indicate that iron from dust increased both organic and inorganic carbon cycling at low- and mid-latitudes of the Earth.

The study, “Atmospheric dust stimulated marine primary productivity during Earth’s penultimate icehouse,” was published in the journal Geology. The work was supported by NASA Astrobiology through the Exobiology Program. This newly-revealed science is also a critical part of NASA’s work to understand the Universe, advance human exploration, and inspire the next generation. As NASA’s Artemis program moves forward with human exploration of the Moon, the search for life on other worlds remains a top priority for the agency.


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻