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Zandspel - Jan van den Berg & Hannie van den Bergh

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Jan van den Berg & Hannie van den Bergh

Attention! This podcast is only available in Dutch.

Dr. Jan-Berend Stuut

Dr Jan-Berend Stuut, marine geologist: 
‘Very occasionally you see a thin layer of yellow dust on cars in the Netherlands. This may be dust that has blown in all the way from the Sahara. Huge quantities of Saharan dust are dispersed in a different direction every year: from Africa to the Caribbean. We have recently discovered that this dust can be very coarse: “giant” sand grains measuring almost half a millimetre. These measurements were taken with the aid of a kind of floating vacuum cleaner in the middle of the ocean.’
‘This research is very important, in part also for our knowledge of the earth’s climate. Dust provides food for algae that can capture CO2from the air and store it in the ocean floor. Large sand grains in particular ensure that algae and their stored CO2sink quickly to the seabed, which goes some way towards counterbalancing all of the carbon that we release into the atmosphere from our chimneys.’  

Dust as fertiliser for the ocean
In 2018, marine geologist Dr Jan-Berend Stuut made the top journal Science with a paper on how coarse-grained dust from the Sahara can blow all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. ‘Between Africa and the Caribbean, we positioned a series of floating dust collectors. When we first found grains of sand measuring almost half a millimetre, hardly anyone believed us. But we’ve now shown very clearly that this dust really can blow from the Sahara right across the ocean.’

Insight into climate issues
‘Saharan sand is full of nutrients, and also metals such as iron. As a result, dust is actually a kind of fertiliser for the ocean. Algae and other organisms need the nutrients from Saharan sand in order to grow. We now know that Saharan sand is a key factor in the overall balance of algal growth in the ocean, and therefore also in the climate. Dying algae take their stored carbon with them to the ocean floor, which goes some way towards counterbalancing the CO2emissions from our chimneys and vehicle exhausts.’  

Detective story and facial recognition
‘Dust that we collect on our floating buoys in the middle of the ocean can really only have been carried there from land by the wind. Artists Jan van den Berg and Hannie van den Bergh have turned this into a detective story: exactly where does this dust come from? 

More information about Jan-Berend’s work can be found on the NIOZ website.

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Science Encounters Art

SEA Texel

Ruim 70 procent van onze aarde bestaat uit zee. Een onuitputtelijke bron van inspiratie. S.E.A brengt een ode aan de zee, door kunstwerken geïnspireerd op wetenschap op Texel te realiseren.

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