Not just sloppy housekeeping. Planet Earth is twice as dusty as 100 years ago.
A study, led by Natalie Mahowald, associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, used available data and computer modeling to estimate the amount of desert dust, or soil particles in the atmosphere, throughout the 20th century.
The amount of dust in the Earth's atmosphere has doubled over the last century and the increase is influencing climate and ecology around the world.
The researchers gathered existing data from ice cores, lake sediment and coral, each of which contain information about past concentrations of desert dust in the region.
They then linked each sample with its likely source region and calculated the rate of dust deposition over time.
Applying components of a computer modeling system they reconstructed the influence of desert dust on temperature, precipitation, ocean iron deposition and terrestrial carbon uptake over time.
They found that regional changes in temperature and precipitation caused a global reduction in terrestrial carbon uptake of 6 parts per million (ppm) over the 20th century.
The model also showed that dust deposited in oceans increased carbon uptake from the atmosphere by 6 percent, or 4 ppm, over the same time period.