Articles | Volume 12, issue 22
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 11199–11211, 2012

Special issue: Desert dust and its impact on air quality and climate

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 11199–11211, 2012

Research article 27 Nov 2012

Research article | 27 Nov 2012

Density currents as a desert dust mobilization mechanism

S. Solomos1, G. Kallos1, E. Mavromatidis1,2, and J. Kushta1 S. Solomos et al.
  • 1University of Athens, School of Physics, University of Athens Campus, Bldg. Phys-5, 15784 Athens, Greece
  • 2Ministry of Education/Higher Education Division, Athens, Greece

Abstract. The formation and propagation of density currents are well studied processes in fluid dynamics with many applications in other science fields. In the atmosphere, density currents are usually meso-β/γ phenomena and are often associated with storm downdrafts. These storms are responsible for the formation of severe dust episodes (haboobs) over desert areas. In the present study, the formation of a convective cool pool and the associated dust mobilization are examined for a representative event over the western part of Sahara desert. The physical processes involved in the mobilization of dust are described with the use of the integrated atmospheric-air quality RAMS/ICLAMS model. Dust is effectively produced due to the development of near surface vortices and increased turbulent mixing along the frontal line. Increased dust emissions and recirculation of the elevated particles inside the head of the density current result in the formation of a moving "dust wall". Transport of the dust particles in higher layers – outside of the density current – occurs mainly in three ways: (1) Uplifting of preexisting dust over the frontal line with the aid of the strong updraft (2) Entrainment at the upper part of the density current head due to turbulent mixing (3) Vertical mixing after the dilution of the system. The role of the dust in the associated convective cloud system was found to be limited. Proper representation of convective processes and dust mobilization requires the use of high resolution (cloud resolving) model configuration and online parameterization of dust production. Haboob-type dust storms are effective dust sources and should be treated accordingly in dust modeling applications.

Final-revised paper