Apparent dust size discrepancy in aerosol reanalysis in north African dust after long-range transport

Samantha J. Kramer, Claudia Alvarez, Anne E. Barkley, Peter R. Colarco, Lillian Custals, Rodrigo Delgadillo, Cassandra J. Gaston, Ravi Govindaraju, Paquita Zuidema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


North African dust reaches the southeastern United States every summer. Size-resolved dust mass measurements taken in Miami, Florida, indicate that more than one-half of the surface dust mass concentrations reside in particles with geometric diameters less than 2.1 ?m, while vertical profiles of micropulse lidar depolarization ratios show dust reaching above 4 km during pronounced events. These observations are compared to the representation of dust in the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, version 2 (MERRA-2) aerosol reanalysis and closely related Goddard Earth Observing System model version 5 (GEOS-5) Forward Processing (FP) aerosol product, both of which assimilate satellite-derived aerosol optical depths using a similar protocol and inputs. These capture the day-to-day variability in aerosol optical depth well, in a comparison to an independent sun-photometer-derived aerosol optical depth dataset. Most of the modeled dust mass resides in diameters between 2 and 6 ?m, in contrast to the measurements. Model-specified mass extinction efficiencies equate light extinction with approximately 3 times as much aerosol mass, in this size range, compared to the measured dust sizes. GEOS-5 FP surface-layer sea salt mass concentrations greatly exceed observed values, despite realistic winds and relative humidities. In combination, these observations help explain why, despite realistic total aerosol optical depths, (1) free-tropospheric model volume extinction coefficients are lower than those retrieved from the micro-pulse lidar, suggesting too-low model dust loadings in the free troposphere, and (2) model dust mass concentrations near the surface can be higher than those measured. The modeled vertical distribution of dust, when captured, is reasonable. Large, aspherical particles exceeding the modeled dust sizes are also occasionally present, but dust particles with diameters exceeding 10 ?m contribute little to the measured total dust mass concentrations after such long-range transport. Remaining uncertainties warrant a further integrated assessment to confirm this study s interpretations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10047-10062
Number of pages16
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 28 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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