- Joint Program Reprint
- Journal Article
Due to an extremely dry climate and strong winds, the Northwest Indian Subcontinent (NWIS) undergoes heavy and frequent dust storms in the spring and summer. These dust storms can travel all the way from the NWIS (which encompasses southeastern Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwestern India) to North India and the Arabian Sea, blocking sunlight and degrading air quality in their path.
In their previous paper in Nature Climate Change, the co-authors found a positive trend of Indian summer monsoon (ISM) rainfall during the past 15 years—a revival of a major monsoon system that had declined for decades—and they analyzed its causes. In this paper, they show that the ISM revival is expanding rainfall distribution further northwestward, a development that could bring more rainfall to the NWIS. This increased rainfall could, in turn, boost vegetation growth and reduce the abundance of dust in the region.
Using satellite and other observations, the researchers demonstrate that the increasing monsoon rainfall is causing wetter soil and more vegetated areas in the Thar Desert and surrounding arid regions in the NWIS, resulting in lower levels of soil/mineral dust emissions in the area. Projected changes in vegetation growth and dust abundance in the NWIS has important implications for regional agricultural productivity and air quality.