Articles | Volume 15, issue 21
Research article
12 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 12 Nov 2015

Toward enhanced capability for detecting and predicting dust events in the western United States: the Arizona case study

M. Huang, D. Tong, P. Lee, L. Pan, Y. Tang, I. Stajner, R. B. Pierce, J. McQueen, and J. Wang

Abstract. Dust aerosols affect human life, ecosystems, atmospheric chemistry and climate in various aspects. Some studies have revealed intensified dust activity in the western US during the past decades despite the weaker dust activity in non-US regions. It is important to extend the historical dust records, to better understand their temporal changes, and to use such information to improve the daily dust forecasting skill as well as the projection of future dust activity under the changing climate. This study develops dust records in Arizona in 2005–2013 using multiple observation data sets, including in situ measurements at the surface Air Quality System (AQS) and Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) sites, and level 2 deep blue aerosol product by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. The diurnal and inter-annual variability of identified dust events are shown related to observed weather patterns (e.g., wind and soil moisture) and surface conditions (e.g., land cover type and vegetation conditions), suggesting a potential for use of satellite soil moisture and land products to help interpret and predict dust activity. Backtrajectories computed using NOAA's Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) model indicate that the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts are important dust source regions during identified dust events in Phoenix, Arizona. Finally, we assess the impact of a recent strong dust event on western US air quality, using various observational and modeling data sets, during a period with a stratospheric ozone intrusion event. The capability of the current US National Air Quality Forecasting Capability (NAQFC) Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) modeling system to represent the magnitude and the temporal variability of aerosol concentrations is evaluated for this event. Directions for integrating observations to further improve dust emission modeling in CMAQ are also suggested.

Short summary
We developed Arizona dust records in 2005-2013 using multiple surface and remote sensing observation data sets. The inter-annual variability of dust events was anticorrelated with three drought indicators (PDSI, satellite NDVI and soil moisture), and stronger dust activity was found in the afternoon than in the morning due to stronger winds and drier soil. Impact of a recent dust event accompanied by a stratospheric ozone intrusion was evaluated with various observational and modeling data sets.
Final-revised paper