Synergetic monitoring of Saharan dust plumes and potential impact on surface: a case study of dust transport from Canary Islands to Iberian Peninsula
Abstract. The synergetic use of meteorological information, remote sensing both ground-based active (lidar) and passive (sun-photometry) techniques together with backtrajectory analysis and in-situ measurements is devoted to the characterization of dust intrusions. A case study of air masses advected from the Saharan region to the Canary Islands and the Iberian Peninsula, located relatively close and far away from the dust sources, respectively, was considered for this purpose. The observations were performed over three Spanish geographically strategic stations within the dust-influenced area along a common dust plume pathway monitored from 11 to 19 of March 2008. A 4-day long dust event (13–16 March) over the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Observatory (SCO), and a linked short 1-day dust episode (14 March) in the Southern Iberian Peninsula over the Atmospheric Sounding Station "El Arenosillo" (ARN) and the Granada station (GRA) were detected. Meteorological conditions favoured the dust plume transport over the area under study. Backtrajectory analysis clearly revealed the Saharan region as the source of the dust intrusion. Under the Saharan air masses influence, AERONET Aerosol Optical Depth at 500 nm (AOD500) ranged from 0.3 to 0.6 and Ångström Exponent at 440/675 nm wavelength pair (AE440/675) was lower than 0.5, indicating a high loading and predominance of coarse particles during those dusty events. Lidar observations characterized their vertical layering structure, identifying different aerosol contributions depending on altitude. In particular, the 3-km height dust layer transported from the Saharan region and observed over SCO site was later on detected at ARN and GRA stations. No significant differences were found in the lidar (extinction-to-backscatter) ratio (LR) estimation for that dust plume over all stations when a suitable aerosol scenario for lidar data retrieval is selected. Lidar-retrieved LR values of 60–70 sr were obtained during the main dust episodes. These similar LR values found in all the stations suggest that dust properties were kept nearly unchanged in the course of its medium-range transport. In addition, the potential impact on surface of that Saharan dust intrusion over the Iberian Peninsula was evaluated by means of ground-level in-situ measurements for particle deposition assessment together with backtrajectory analysis. However, no connection between those dust plumes and the particle sedimentation registered at ground level is found. Differences on particle deposition processes observed in both Southern Iberian Peninsula sites are due to the particular dust transport pattern occurred over each station. Discrepancies between columnar-integrated and ground-level in-situ measurements show a clear dependence on height of the dust particle size distribution. Then, further vertical size-resolved observations are needed for evaluation of the impact on surface of the Saharan dust arrival to the Iberian Peninsula.