US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Quaternary Science Reviews 265 (2021) 107024


U.S. government work


Africa is the most important source of dust in the world today and dust storms from that continent frequently deposit sediment on the nearby Canary Islands. Many investigators have inferred African dust inputs to Canary Islands paleosols based only on the presence of quartz. However, some local rocks do contain this mineral, so quartz alone is insufficient proof of dust deposition. Further, it is not known whether the Sahara Desert or the Sahel region is more important as a dust source. We address these issues by study of sequences of Pleistocene aeolian sands on the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. Aeolian sands are composed mostly of marine carbonate minerals and locally derived volcanic minerals. They date from the early-middle Pleistocene to the Holocene. Trace element geochemistry shows that the soils formed from both locally derived basalt and African dust. Major element geochemistry and clay mineralogy indicate that dust additions to the Canary Islands likely come from both the Sahara and Sahel. Dust delivered from the Sahel indicates that droughts in that region have had a history extending through much of the Quaternary. Accretionary-inflationary profile development, from dust accretion, is evident in the upward growth of Canary Islands paleosols.