Current estimates of global dust emission vary by over a factor of two. Here, we use multiple data types and a worldwide array of stations combined with a dust model to constrain the magnitude of the global dust cycle for particles with radii between 0.1 and 8 μm. An optimal value of global emission is calculated by minimizing the difference between the model dust distribution and observations. The optimal global emission is most sensitive to the prescription of the dust source region. Depending upon the assumed source, the agreement with observations is greatest for global, annual emission ranging from 1500 to 2600 Tg. However, global annual emission between 1000 and 3000 Tg remains in agreement with the observations, given small changes in the method of optimization. Both ranges include values that are substantially larger than calculated by current dust models. In contrast, the optimal fraction of clay particles (whose radii are less than 1 μm) is lower than current model estimates. The optimal solution identified by a combination of data sets is different from that identified by any single data set and is more robust. Uncertainty is introduced into the optimal emission by model biases and the uncertain contribution of other aerosol species to the observations.