Articles | Volume 14, issue 20
Research article
22 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 22 Oct 2014

Variability of the infrared complex refractive index of African mineral dust: experimental estimation and implications for radiative transfer and satellite remote sensing

C. Di Biagio, H. Boucher, S. Caquineau, S. Chevaillier, J. Cuesta, and P. Formenti

Abstract. Experimental estimations of the infrared refractive index of African mineral dust have been retrieved from laboratory measurements of particle transmission spectra in the wavelength range 2.5–25 μm. Five dust samples collected at Banizoumbou (Niger) and Tamanrasset (Algeria) during dust events originated from different Western Saharan and Sahelian areas have been investigated. The real (n) and imaginary (k) parts of the refractive index obtained for the different dust samples vary in the range 1.1–2.7 and 0.05–1.0, respectively, and are strongly sensitive to the mineralogical composition of the particles, especially in the 8–12 and 17–25 μm spectral intervals. Dust absorption is controlled mainly by clays (kaolinite, illite, smectite) and, to a lesser extent, by quartz and calcium-rich minerals (e.g. calcite, gypsum). Significant differences are obtained when comparing our results with existing experimental estimations available in the literature, and with the values of the OPAC (Optical Properties of Aerosols and Clouds) database. The different data sets appear comparable in magnitude, with our values of n and k falling within the range of variability of past studies. However, literature data fail in accurately reproducing the spectral signatures of the main minerals, in particular clays, and they significantly overestimate the contribution of quartz. Furthermore, the real and the imaginary parts of the refractive index from some literature studies are found not to verify the Kramers–Kronig relations, thus being theoretically incorrect. The comparison between our results, from western Africa, and literature data, from different locations in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean, nonetheless, confirms the expected large variability of the dust infrared refractive index. This highlights the necessity for an extended systematic investigation of dust properties at infrared wavelengths.

For the five analysed dust samples, aerosol intensive optical properties relevant to radiative transfer (mass extinction efficiency, kext, single scattering albedo, ω, and asymmetry factor, g) have been calculated, by using the Mie theory, based on the estimated refractive index and measured particle size distribution. The optical properties show a large sample-to-sample variability, with kext, ω, and g varying in the range 0.05–0.35, 0.25–1.0, and 0.05–0.75. This variability is expected to significantly impact satellite retrievals of atmospheric and surface parameters (e.g. from the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer, IASI) and estimates of the dust radiative forcing.

Final-revised paper