‘Blood rain’ will fall on Britain this weekend staining cars and pavements a rusty brown as red dust blows in from the Sahara desert.
Parts of the UK are facing soaring levels of air pollution as African dust mingles with city pollution, prompting health officials to issue warnings to vulnerable people.
Much of the South East and eastern England will see high levels of pollution, although the problem is expected to be short-lived, with Atlantic winds dispersing the murky air by Saturday, the Environment Department (Defra) said.
“Blood rain” is the term used when rain mixes with sand from deserts. Storms in the Sahara desert whip up sand into a fine dust which is carried for more than 2,000 miles to Britain.
When the rain falls it looks a reddish colour and when it dries it leaves a thin layer of dust capable of coating houses, cars and garden furniture.
Although it is more common in Spain and the South of France, it has been known to travel longer distances and fall in areas like Scandinavia. In some parts of India the colour has been vibrant enough to stain clothing.
The red in this dust is iron. And this is therefore one of the ways in which we should deal with climate change.
Because, as I’ve repeatedly said elsewhere, there are areas of the oceans that are iron deficient. Add iron to them you get algal blooms, some of which die and sink to the bottom becoming rock. Meaning that the carbon they take with them become properly sequestered. The best available estimate is that we could sink 1 billion tonnes of emissions a year this way. No, not a total solution by any means but a useful addition: that is two Britain’s worth of emissions after all.
Further more this would be exotically cheap. Iron sulphide, the stuff you want, is not just free, people will pay you to take it away.
However, there’s no ongoing experimentation on this. The last serious experiment was a decade ago (there was a non-serious, private sector one, more recently). It’s almost as if, well, horrible to say this, but it’s almost as if some people don’t want there to be a technological solution……
Despite the fact that this red dust from the Sahara we know, absolutely, does exactly the same thing. Think of it like organic farming. No one does insist that you can only spread the animal shit on the fields by having the animals shit in the fields. Everyone agrees that you can shovel up their shit from their pens and spread that on the fields. So why can’t we shovel up iron dust and spread it, when the wind already does this to a lesser scale?
At least, we should be testing it properly, no?
(There is a further wonder here as well. This same dust has just been found to be what provides the potassium and phosphorous for the Amazon rainforest. But if you were to suggest spreading potassium and phosphorous in the Amazon rainforest you would be raping Gaia. Because, you know artificial fertiliser is the very devil. Despite the stuff coming from the same damn deserts (no, really, largest mines are in the Sahara) as the dust itself.)