Aeolian dust: initiator, player, and recorder of environmental change



The interactions between aerosols, climate, and weather are among the large uncertainties of current atmospheric research. Mineral dust is an important natural source of aerosol with significant implications on radiation, cloud microphysics, atmospheric chemistry and the carbon cycle via the fertilization of marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

In addition, properties of dust deposited in sediments and ice cores are important (paleo-)climate indicators.

This interdivision session --building bridges between the EGU divisions CL, AS, SSP, BG and GM-- is open to contributions dealing with:

(1) measurements of all aspects of the dust cycle (emission, transport, deposition, size distribution, particle characteristics) with in situ and remote sensing techniques,

(2) numerical simulations of dust on global and regional scales,

(3) meteorological conditions for dust storms, dust transport and deposition,

(4) interactions of dust with clouds and radiation,

(5) influence of dust on atmospheric chemistry,

(6) fertilization of ecosystems through dust deposition,

(7) any study using dust as a (paleo-)climate indicator including sediment archives in loess, ice cores, lake sediments, ocean sediments and dunes.

We especially encourage to submit papers on the integration of different disciplines and/or modelling of past, present and future climates.

In 2021 we look forward to hear three solicited speakers present their latest work.

We are proud to announce:

1) Siyu Chen, professor at Lanzhou University, China.
Siyu will present her work on modelling emission, transport and radiative effects of Asian mineral dust

2) Kevin Ohneiser, PhD student at TROPOS, Leipzig, Germany

Kevin will present his latest findings on aerosols observed during the MOSAIC campaign

3) Jeff Munroe, professor at Middlebury College, USA

Jeff will present his latest findings from the DUST^2 project; a source-to-sink investigation of the modern dust system in SW North America


Co-organized by AS3/BG3/GM8/SSP3, co-sponsored by ISAR
Convener: Jan-Berend Stuut | Co-conveners: Martina KloseECSECS, Joanna Nield, Mingjin TangECSECS
vPICO presentations
| Fri, 30 Apr, 09:00–12:30 (CEST)

Session assets

Session materials

vPICO presentations: Fri, 30 Apr

Chairpersons: Jan-Berend Stuut, Mingjin Tang
1) Dust variability and environmental impacts
Siyu Chen

Approximately 90% of people worldwide breathe air that contains high concentrations of particulate matter (PM) pollution. Anthropogenic dust (AD), as a crucial component of PM, can be interpreted as dust emitted by modifying or disturbing soil particles through direct (e.g., construction and driving of vehicles) and indirect (e.g., wind erosion over agricultural land, grassland, dry lakes, etc.) human activities. The compositions and properties of AD are more complex and variable than those of natural dust (ND). Current studies on dust aerosols have mostly focused on ND emissions, transport, and climate effects. However, the quantitative knowledge of the sources, characteristics, and impacts of AD is inadequate.

To comprehensively reproduce the AD emissions process, both “indirect” and “direct” AD emission were constructed to simulate AD emissions originated from diverse kinds of source regions in the study. Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) retrievals were utilized as the constraint of AD simulations. Results showed that using both indirect and direct AD emission schemes show good performance on reproducing the spatio-temporal distributions of AD at the global scale. Compared with natural dust emissions, indirect AD emissions show an indistinctive seasonal variation, with seasonal differences generally less than 0.42 μg m−2 s−1. Among indirect AD emissions, pasturelands produce more AD particles emission into the atmosphere than croplands at approximately 0.28 μg m−2 s−1, contributing 75.9% of indirect AD emissions. The developing regions emit much higher direct AD emissions than those from developed regions. In addition, AD-induced surface radiative cooling of up to -10.0 W m-2 regionally, especially in the developing countries. The estimated global total premature mortality due to AD is 0.7 million deaths per year and is more severe in populous regions.

How to cite: Chen, S.: Numerical simulations of anthropogenic dust, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1062,, 2021.

Diana Francis, Jean-Pierre Chaboureau, Narendra Nelli, Juan Cuesta, and Noor Alshamsi

This study investigates the underlying atmospheric dynamics associated with intense dust storms in summer 2018 over the Arabian Peninsula (AP); a major dust source at global scale. It reports, for the first time, on the formation of cyclone over the Empty Quarter Desert as important mechanism for intense dust storms over this source region. The dust direct and semi-direct radiative forcings are observed, for the first time over this source region, using high-resolution in-situ and CERES-SYN satellite observational data. The three-dimensional structure and evolution of the dust storms are inferred from state-of-the-art satellite products such as SEVIRI, AEROIASI and CALIPSO. The dynamics and thermodynamics of the boundary layer during this event are thoroughly analyzed using ERA5 reanalysis and ground based observations.

We found that a large dust storm by Shamal winds led up, through radiative forcing, to cyclone development over the Empty Quarter Desert, subsequent dust emissions, development of convective clouds and rain. The cyclogenesis over this region initiated a second intense dust storm which developed and impacted the AP for 3 consecutive days. The uplifted dust by the cyclone reached 5 km in altitude and altered the radiative budget at the surface, inducing both significant warming during night and cooling during day. The dust load uplifted by the cyclone was estimated by the mesoscale model Meso-NH to be in the order of 20 Tg, and the associated aerosol optical depth was higher than 3. The model simulates reasonably the radiative impact of the dust in the shortwave but highly underestimated its impact in the LW.

Our study stresses the importance of the dust radiative forcing in the longwave and that it should be accurately accounted for in models to properly represent the impact of dust on the Earth system especially near source areas. Missing the warming effect of dust aerosols would impact both the weather and air quality forecast, and the regional climate projections.

These results were published in November 2020 in the journal Atmospheric Research

How to cite: Francis, D., Chaboureau, J.-P., Nelli, N., Cuesta, J., and Alshamsi, N.: Summertime dust storms over the Arabian Peninsula and impacts on radiation and atmospheric circulation., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-439,, 2021.

The contribution of the former Aral Sea and other desiccating lakes to the prevalence of dust storms in Central Asia and the Middle East
Jamie Banks, Bernd Heinold, and Kerstin Schepanski
Robabeh Yousefi, Fang Wang, Quansheng Ge, and Abdallah Shaheen

Atmospheric aerosols considered as one of the main concerns in the ongoing climate change. Meteorological changes have a significant role in the inter-decadal Aerosols variation. In this talk, long term (2000-2019) aerosol optical depth (AOD) and metrological factors data from the reanalysis-based Modern Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA-2) were used provide deep insight into the relationship between meteorological factors and AOD variability over Iran during the dusty season (MJJA: May, June, July, and August). Prior to regression analyses, Iran was divided into three parts based on the climatological conditions (west part: dusty area, north part: wetter, and center: dry area). Using a multiple linear regression model, AOD variability over Iran was significantly linked to sea level pressure and soil moisture. Winter surface temperatures and relative humidity are the main contributors to MJJA AOD variability over the western and northern parts.  AOD was not affected by precipitation. Our results suggested that climatic variations strongly affect the dust cycle, with a strong dependence on wintertime conditions in the region.

How to cite: Yousefi, R., Wang, F., Ge, Q., and Shaheen, A.: Contribution of meteorological factors to AOD variability during the dusty season over Iran, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1349,, 2021.

reza modarres and Poria Mohit Esfahani

Dust storms are frequent phenomenon in arid and semi arid regions of Iran which cover near 60 percent of the entire country in the center of Iran. Due to geographic and climatic conditions of prolonged dry conditions as well as poor land use management, dust storms occur in almost all seasons across the region. Drought is a major fator affecting the likelihood of dust storm occurrence across arid regions of Iran. We develop copula functions to investigate the effect of drought on dust storm frequency.The standardized precipitation Index (SPI) was caluclated and drought condition was defined based on SPI< -0.5. Dought severity and duration for each drought event were ca;culated and the number of dust days in each drought event ws also identified. The Archimedean copula families shoed that the probability of dust occurrence has a significant relationship to extreme drought conditions. The joint probability is then used to derive the joint return period of dust storms in relation to drought condition.

How to cite: modarres, R. and Mohit Esfahani, P.: Dust storm frequency in relation to extreme droughts in arid regions of Iran, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1810,, 2021.

Possible Explanation for Interannual Variations in Trans-Pacific Transport of East Asian Dust
Mingxing Wang, Yiran Peng, and Tianliang Zhao
Jie Yang and Tianliang Zhao

In this study, we used the sandstorm data of 233 meteorological stations in northern China, conventional meteorological observation data and MODIS-NDVI data in the 40 years from 1980 to 2019 to analyze the spatio-temporal variation of sandstorms in northern China and its related meteorological effects in this century.

The results show that: 1) The average number of sandstorm days in northern China has been fluctuating and decreasing since the beginning of this century, and increasing from 2017 to 2019. Spring is the main season of dust storm, and the springtime proportion of sandstorm days decreases year by year. 2) In the 1980s and 1990s, sandstorms covered almost covered the whole northwest region; Since the beginning of this century, the range of sandstorm days in the whole Northwest China has shown an obvious decadal downward trend. The spatial pattern of sandstorm days in northern China has been shrinking and moving westward since 2000, and the dominant position of the Gobi Desert in the Asian dust source region has been decreasing year by year. The high sandstorm days were located in the Taklimakan Desert with the increasing trend of sandstorm days year by year. 3) The temporal and spatial variation of sandstorm days in northern China is closely related to the increase of vegetation cover with the greenness and wetness of the land surface, the decreases of average wind speed and gale days, and the significant increase of annual precipitation in northern China after 2000.

How to cite: Yang, J. and Zhao, T.: Temporal and spatial variations of sandstorm and the related meteorological influences over northern China in the 21st century, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14615,, 2021.

Priyanka Banerjee, Sreedharan Krishnakumari Satheesh, and Krishnaswamy Krishna Moorthy

Several studies have associated high dust years over South Asia to warming of the central or eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean (El Nino conditions) and the resulting weakening of the summer monsoon. Using satellite aerosol data for 2001-2018, we show that there has been a departure from this relation since the second decade of the 21st century with the North Atlantic Ocean emerging as a major driver of interannual variability of dust over South Asia. This change in relation coincides with the end of the global warming hiatus and a shift towards persistent positive phase of the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Positive phase of the NAO induces cold phase of the spring/summer North Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) tripole pattern. We show here that high dust activity during 2011-2018 is associated with positive SST anomaly over the mid-latitude North Atlantic and negative SST anomaly over the sub-tropical North Atlantic: the two southern arms of the SST tripole pattern. Interestingly, the relation between NAO and these two southern arms of the SST tripole has undergone changes in recent years, which has impacted the South Asian monsoon. The result is general drying over South Asia and an increase in the strength of the dust-carrying northwesterlies. Simulations with the Community Earth System Model (CESM) shows that SST tripole-like anomalies recorded during 2011-2018 over the North Atlantic can generate mid-latitude wave train that weakens the South Asian monsoon circulation, leads to surface high pressure anomalies and increase in dust emission and transport over northwest India and Pakistan. Most of the increase in the dust load can be attributed to enhanced transport at 800 hPa pressure level during May-June, which can lead to ~40-50% increase in dust concentrations at this level.

How to cite: Banerjee, P., Satheesh, S. K., and Krishna Moorthy, K.: Recent dust variability over South Asia controlled by North Atlantic SST anomalies, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12649,, 2021.

Enza Di Tomaso, Jerónimo Escribano, Paul Ginoux, Sara Basart, Francesca Macchia, Francesca Barnaba, Miguel Castrillo, Paola Formenti, Oriol Jorba, Lucia Mona, Gilbert Montané, Michail Mytilinaios, Vincenzo Obiso, Nick Schutgens, Athanasios Votsis, Ernest Werner, and Carlos PérezGarcía-Pando

Desert dust is the most abundant aerosol by mass residing in the atmosphere. It plays a key role in the Earth’s system by influencing the radiation balance, by affecting cloud formation and cloud chemistry, and by acting as a fertilizer for the growth of phytoplankton and for soil through its deposition over the ocean and land.

Due to the nature of its emission and transport, atmospheric dust concentrations are highly variable in space and time and, therefore, require a continuous monitoring by measurements. Dust observations are best exploited by being combined with model simulations for the production of analyses and reanalyses, i.e., complete and consistent four dimensional reconstructions of the atmosphere. Existing aerosol (and dust) reanalyses for the global domain have been produced by total aerosol constraint and at relatively coarse spatial resolution, while regional reanalyses exclude some of the regions containing the major sources of desert dust in Northern Africa and the Middle East.

We present here a 10-year reanalysis data set of desert dust at a horizontal resolution of 0.1°, and which covers the domain of Northern Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The reanalysis has been produced by assimilating in the MONARCH chemical weather prediction system (Di Tomaso et al., 2017) satellite retrievals over dust source regions with specific dust observational constraint (Ginoux et al., 2012; Pu and Ginoux, 2016).

Furthermore, we describe its evaluation in terms of data assimilation diagnostics and comparison against independent observations. Statistics of analysis departures from assimilated observations prove the consistency of the data assimilation system showing that the analysis is closer to the observations than the first-guess. Temporal mean of analysis increments show that the assimilation led to an overall reduction of dust with pattern of systematic corrections that vary with the seasons, and can be linked primarily to misrepresentation of source strength.

Independent evaluation of the analysis with AERONET observations indicates that the reanalysis data set is highly accurate, and provides therefore a reliable historical record of atmospheric desert dust concentrations in a recent decade.


Di Tomaso, E., Schutgens, N. A. J., Jorba, O., and Pérez García-Pando, C. (2017): Assimilation of MODIS Dark Target and Deep Blue observations in the dust aerosol component of NMMB-MONARCH version 1.0, Geosci. Model Dev., 10, 1107-1129.

Ginoux, P., Prospero, J. M., Gill, T. E., Hsu, N. C. and Zhao, M. (2012): Global-Scale Attribution of Anthropogenic and Natural Dust Sources and Their Emission Rates Based on Modis Deep Blue Aerosol Products. Rev Geophys 50.

Pu, B., and Ginoux, P. (2016). The impact of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation on springtime dust activity in Syria. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 16(21), 13431-13448.


The authors acknowledge the DustClim project which is part of ERA4CS, an ERA-NET initiated by JPI Climate, and funded by FORMAS (SE), DLR (DE), BMWFW (AT), IFD (DK), MINECO (ES), ANR (FR) with co-funding by the European Union (435690462); PRACE (eDUST/eFRAGMENT1/eFRAGMENT2), RES (AECT-2020-3-0013/AECT-2019-3-0001/AECT-2020-1-0007) for awarding access to MareNostrum at BSC and for technical support.

How to cite: Di Tomaso, E., Escribano, J., Ginoux, P., Basart, S., Macchia, F., Barnaba, F., Castrillo, M., Formenti, P., Jorba, O., Mona, L., Montané, G., Mytilinaios, M., Obiso, V., Schutgens, N., Votsis, A., Werner, E., and PérezGarcía-Pando, C.: A 10-year regional reanalysis of desert dust aerosol at high spatial resolution, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11644,, 2021.

Nicolas Cosentino, Diego Gaiero, Laura Ruiz-Etcheverry, Fabrice Lambert, Gonzalo Bia, Lucio Simonella, Renata Coppo, Gabriela Torre, Martin Saraceno, and Veronica Tur

The magnitude of the climate forcing associated with mineral dust aerosols remains uncertain, due in part to a lack of direct observations on dust source areas. While modeling and satellite studies provide spatially extensive constraints, these studies must be supported by surface-validating, in situ dust monitoring. Our study focuses on Patagonia, the main source of dust to the southern oceans (>45ºS), a region of low biological productivity potentially susceptible to increased micronutrient fertilization through dust deposition and associated atmosphere‐to‐ocean CO2 flux. This mechanism is hypothesized to have contributed significantly to the last interglacial‐to‐glacial climatic transition. However, the dust‐phytoplankton biomass connection remains contentious for the present‐day climate system.

We analysed multi-year time series of surface dust-related visibility reduction (DRVR) and dust mass sampling at four downwind coastal monitoring sites, along with key meteorological time series at these same sites. We find that local DRVR across Patagonia is partly controlled by long-term water deficit (i.e., months), while same-day conditions play a smaller role, reflective of water retention properties of fine-grained dust-emitting soils in low-moisture conditions. This conclusion is supported independently by reanalysis data showing that large-scale dust outbreaks are usually associated with anomalously high long-term water deficit. By combining visibility data with surface dust sampling we were able to derive emission rates associated with regional patches of dust-emitting surfaces and test the skill of dust emission schemes to simulate dust activity close to the sources. Our results suggest that the inclusion of long-term hydrologic soil balance may improve the performance of dust emission schemes in climate models.

We also analyzed the impact of southernmost Patagonian dust emissions on southwestern Atlantic Ocean continental shelf and proximal open ocean satellite chlorophyll‐a concentration. We used the DRVR and mass flux time series of the southernmost site to model dust emission, transport, and deposition to the ocean. We then performed a dust event‐based analysis of chlorophyll‐a time series, using a novel approach by which time series are corrected for post‐depositional particle advection due to ocean currents. Finally, we performed total iron determinations, release experiments and iron solid speciation analysis in dust samples. Iron is a key micronutrient limiting phytoplankton biomass in high‐nutrient, low‐chlorophyll oceans such as offshore of the 200‐m isobath off Patagonia. We find no compelling evidence for an influence of dust as an enhancer of phytoplankton biomass either on shelf or proximal open ocean waters of the southwestern Atlantic Ocean. For open ocean waters this is consistent with a lack of source‐inherited bioavailable iron in dust samples. Future case studies addressing similar questions should concentrate on dust sources with identified high contents of bioavailable iron, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere where atmospheric processing of iron-bearing particles is weak.

How to cite: Cosentino, N., Gaiero, D., Ruiz-Etcheverry, L., Lambert, F., Bia, G., Simonella, L., Coppo, R., Torre, G., Saraceno, M., and Tur, V.: Present-day Patagonian dust emissions: Mass flux constraints, meteorological triggers and the effect on phytoplankton biomass, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-156,, 2021.

Qiaoqiao Wang, Jianwei Gu, and Xurong Wang

The frequent transport of Sahara dust toward Europe degrades the air quality and poses risk to human health. In this study we use GEOS-Chem (a global transport model) to examine the impact of Sahara dust on air quality and the consequent health effect in Europe for the year 2016–2017. The simualtion is conducted in a nested model with the native resolution of 0.25° × 0.3125° (Latitude × Logitude) over Europe (32.75°N–61.25°N, 15°W–40°E). The simulation on a global scale with a coarse horizontal resolution of 2° × 2.5° is also conducted to provide the boundary condition for the nested-grid simulation as well as aerosol optical depth (AOD) over the Sahara desert for model evaluation.

The model performance is evaluated by comparisons with surface observations including aerosol optical depth (AOD) from AERONET, and PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations from numerous air quality monitoring stations in European countries. Overall, the model well reproduces observed surface PM concentrations over most European countries with some underestimation in southern Europe. In addition, model AOD is highly correlated with AERONET data over both Sahara and European region.

The spatial distribution of dust concentrations, frequency of dust episodes, as well as the exposure and health effects are studied. The concentrations of Sahara dust decrease from 5–20 μg m-3 in south to 0.5–1.0 μg m-3 in north of Europe. Spain and Italy are most heavily influenced by Sahara dust in terms of both concentration levels and frequencies of occurrence. Strong dust episodes (>50 μg m-3) occur predominately in Southern Spain and Italy with frequency of 2–5%, while light dust episodes (>1 μg m-3) are often detected (5–30%) in Central and Western Europe.

The population-weighted dust concentrations are higher in Southern European countries (3.3–7.9 μg m-3) and lower in Western European countries (0.5–0.6 μg m-3). The health effects of exposure to dust is evaluated based on population attributable fraction (PAF). We use the relative risk (RR) value of 1.04 (95% confidence intervals: 1.00 – 1.09) per 10 µg m-3 of dust exposure based on the main model of Beelen et al. (2014). We estimate a total of 41884 (95% CI: 2110–81658) deaths per year attributed to the exposure to dust in the 13 European countries studied. Due to high contribution to PM10 in Spain, Italy and Portugal, dust accounts for 44%, 27% and 22% of the total number of deaths linked to PM10 exposure, respectively.

How to cite: Wang, Q., Gu, J., and Wang, X.: The impact of Sahara dust on air quality and public health in European countries, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9625,, 2021.

2) Dust emission, transport and deposition processes
Jianqi Zhao, Xiaoyan Ma, Shuoqiu Wu, and Tong Sha

In this study, the Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled with chemistry (WRF-Chem) is employed to simulate a dust process in Northwest China during May 2018. The model's ability to simulate the dust process in Northwest China is firstly evaluated using various satellite-retrieved and observational data. The four-dimensional assimilation method is also used to optimize meteorological data and effectively improve the simulation of the dust process.


Fig. 1. Differences of wind field (unit: m/s) between the simulations (a-d: unassimilated; e-h: assimilated) and the observations at 03:00 UTC on 20–23 May.

The comparisons between the simulations based on five dust emission schemes within WRF-Chem and the observations show that, the Shao01 scheme overall has good performance in simulating the emission flux, the spatial pattern of source region, as well as the spatiotemporal variation of dust mass concentration, during this dust process. In comparison to Shao01, the GOCART AFWA and Shao04 schemes can also produce quite similar spatial pattern of dust source region, but tend to overestimate or underestimate dust emission and mass concentration. The Shao11 scheme fails to simulate the dust process since the importance of the fully disturbed particle size distribution is omitted. It is also noted that the GOCART scheme can well reproduce dust emission processes under weak wind erosion but underestimate dust emission flux under strong wind erosion. In addition, the GOCART scheme has produced some spurious emissions and thus blurred the distribution of dust source region.

Fig. 2. The averaged dust emission flux (unit: μg/m2/s) from the GOCART (a), GOCART AFWA (b), Shao01 (c), Shao04 (d) and Shao11 (e) schemes during 17–23 May.

Fig. 3. Variations of daily (a) and hourly (b) surface PM10 concentrations, friction velocity (c) and 10 m wind speed (d) at the Turpan station during 17–23 May.

Northwest China is covered by mountains, basins, deserts and other landforms, thus the complex terrain is one of the key factors to influence the dust process over the region. Our study shows that after being emitted, the airborne dust transported toward the east and west. The dust to the east was diffused rapidly, but the portion toward the west was blocked and accumulated at the edges of the mountains and thus produced dust weather characterized by high dust concentration and long lifetime. The dust accumulated at the edges of the mountains could reach an altitude of more than 6 km due to wind and thermal effect, and finally arrive at Tibetan Plateau and eastern China.

Fig. 4. The simulated (with Shao01 scheme) dust (unit: μg /m3) transport path (a-c) during 20–23 May and vertical profiles of 38.5°N (d) and 85°E (g) at 05:00 UTC on 21 May, 36°N (e) and 95° E (h) at 06:00 UTC on 22 May and 36°N (f) and 98°E (i) at 05:00 UTC on 23 May.

How to cite: Zhao, J., Ma, X., Wu, S., and Sha, T.: Dust emission and transport in Northwest China: WRF-Chem simulation and comparisons with multi-sensor observations, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4677,, 2021.