• radiative forcing;
  • mineral dust;
  • climate

Mineral aerosol (referred to here as “dust”) is an active climate and paleoclimate system component that may significantly influence the radiative properties of the atmosphere, as well as ocean and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, through processes such as iron fertilization. The integrative, cross-cutting examination of the role and significance of dust provides the rationale for the Dust Indicators and Records of Terrestrial and Marine Paleoenvironments (DIRTMAP) working group sponsored by the International Union of Quaternary Research and the Natural Environment Research Council's Quantifying and Understanding the Earth System (QUEST) program. The working group aims to initiate coordinated progress to improve the representation of dust properties in dust cycle models, with particular focus on dust mineralogy, such as the concentrations of iron oxides and oxyhydroxides as either nanoparticles or mineral coatings, and particle size distribution. These two sets of factors are potentially significant in assessing the effects of dust on both radiative forcing and biogeochemical cycling. The working group also aims to improve model simulation of dust source regions, the episodic nature of dust emissions, and amounts of dust deposition over the continents.