Aerosol variability and atmospheric transport in the Himalayan region from CALIOP 2007–2010 observations
Abstract. This work quantifies the spatial distribution of different aerosol types, their seasonal variability and sources.The analysis of four years of CALIOP (Cloud–Aerosol LIdar with Orthogonal Polarization) vertically resolved aerosol data allows the identification of spatial patterns of desert dust and carbonaceous particles in different atmospheric layers. Clusters of Lagrangian back trajectories highlight the transport pathways from source regions during the dusty spring season. The analysis shows a prevalence of dust; at low heights it occurs frequently (up to 70% of available observations) and is distributed north of the Tibetan Plateau with a main contribution from the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts, and west of the Tibetan Plateau, originating from the deserts of southwest Asia and advected by the Westerlies. Above the Himalayas the dust amount is minor but still not negligible (occurrence around 20%) and mainly affected by the transport from more distant deserts sources (Sahara and Arabian Peninsula). Carbonaceous aerosol, produced mainly in northern India and eastern China, is subject to shorter-range transport and is indeed observed closer to the sources, while there is a limited amount reaching the top of the plateau. Data analysis reveals a clear seasonal variability in the frequencies of occurrence for the main aerosol types; dust is regulated principally by the monsoon dynamics, with maximal occurrence in spring. We also highlight relevant interannual differences, showing a larger presence of aerosol in the region during 2007 and 2008. The characterization of the aerosol spatial and temporal distribution in terms of observational frequency is a key piece of information that can be directly used for the evaluation of global aerosol models.