Chinese researchers discovered that human activities were the dominating factor influencing the Asian dust storm 2,000 years ago, according to a new research article in Nature Communications journal.
The research team collected samples from an alpine lake in north China's Shanxi Province in 2009.
The lake locates on the Chinese Loess Plateau, which is an ideal place to study the relations between an Asian dust storm and human activities, said Liu Jianbao, a researcher at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and co-corresponding author of the article.
By extracting dust storm components from lake sediments, the research team reconstructed the history of the Asian dust storm for the past 2,000 years.
The results showed that the increases in dust storm coincided with a large population during strong Asian monsoon periods. By contrast, reduced dust storm activity corresponded to a decreased population.
The strengthened Asian monsoon facilitated the development of Chinese civilizations, destabilizing the topsoil and thereby increasing the dust storm frequency. This indicates that human activities, beginning at least 2,000 years ago, began to overtake natural climatic variability as the dominant controls of dust storm activity in eastern China.
The findings are expected to provide scientific support for policymaking of regulating human activities and afforestation in arid and semi-arid regions of north China.