Iron oxide minerals in dust-source sediments from the Bodélé Depression, Chad: Implications for radiative properties and Fe bioavailability of dust plumes from the Sahara

Bruce M. Moskowitz, Richard L. Reynolds, Harland L. Goldstein, Thelma S. Berquó, Raymond F. Kokaly, Charlie S. Bristow

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17 Scopus citations


Atmospheric mineral dust can influence climate and biogeochemical cycles. An important component of mineral dust is ferric oxide minerals (hematite and goethite) which have been shown to influence strongly the optical properties of dust plumes and thus affect the radiative forcing of global dust. Here we report on the iron mineralogy of dust-source samples from the Bodélé Depression (Chad, north-central Africa), which is estimated to be Earth's most prolific dust producer and may be a key contributor to the global radiative budget of the atmosphere as well as to long-range nutrient transport to the Amazon Basin. By using a combination of magnetic property measurements, Mössbauer spectroscopy, reflectance spectroscopy, chemical analysis, and scanning electron microscopy, we document the abundance and relative amounts of goethite, hematite, and magnetite in dust-source samples from the Bodélé Depression. The partition between hematite and goethite is important to know to improve models for the radiative effects of ferric oxide minerals in mineral dust aerosols. The combination of methods shows (1) the dominance of goethite over hematite in the source sediments, (2) the abundance and occurrences of their nanosize components, and (3) the ubiquity of magnetite, albeit in small amounts. Dominant goethite and subordinate hematite together compose about 2% of yellow-reddish dust-source sediments from the Bodélé Depression and contribute strongly to diminution of reflectance in bulk samples. These observations imply that dust plumes from the Bodélé Depression that are derived from goethite-dominated sediments strongly absorb solar radiation. The presence of ubiquitous magnetite (0.002–0.57 wt%) is also noteworthy for its potentially higher solubility relative to ferric oxide and for its small sizes, including PM < 0.1 μm. For all examined samples, the average iron apportionment is estimated at about 33% in ferric oxide minerals, 1.4% in magnetite, and 65% in ferric silicates. Structural iron in clay minerals may account for much of the iron in the ferric silicates. We estimate that the mean ferric oxides flux exported from the Bodélé Depression is 0.9 Tg/yr with greater than 50% exported as ferric oxide nanoparticles (<0.1 μm). The high surface-to-volume ratios of ferric oxide nanoparticles once entrained into dust plumes may facilitate increased atmospheric chemical and physical processing and affect iron solubility and bioavailability to marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-106
Number of pages14
JournalAeolian Research
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was partly funded by the Climate and Land Use Change Program of the U.S. Geological Survey. The Royal Geographical Society and the Gilchrist educational trust provided funding for fieldwork (C. S. Bristow). We thank Peter Solheid, Michael Jackson, and Kimberly Yauk for helpful discussions, and with magnetic and Mössbauer spectroscopy measurements, Jiang Xiao for sample preparation and USGS magnetic and reflectance spectroscopy measurements, and George Breit for SEM analysis and interpretation and for insightful discussions regarding the mineralogy and occurrences of iron oxides. This is contribution 1509 of the Institute for Rock Magnetism, which is supported by grants from the Instruments and Facilities Program, Division of Earth Science, National Science Foundation. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Dust
  • Goethite
  • Hematite
  • Magnetic properties
  • Nanoparticles
  • Particulate matter


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