Articles | Volume 16, issue 13
Research article
08 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 08 Jul 2016

Inventory of African desert dust events in the north-central Iberian Peninsula in 2003–2014 based on sun-photometer–AERONET and particulate-mass–EMEP data

Victoria E. Cachorro, Maria A. Burgos, David Mateos, Carlos Toledano, Yasmine Bennouna, Benjamín Torres, Ángel M. de Frutos, and Álvaro Herguedas

Abstract. A reliable identification of desert dust (DD) episodes over north-central Spain is carried out based on the AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET) columnar aerosol sun photometer (aerosol optical depth, AOD, and Ångström exponent, α) and European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) surface particulate-mass concentration (PMx, x = 10, 2.5, and 2.5–10 µm) as the main core data. The impact of DD on background aerosol conditions is detectable by means of aerosol load thresholds and complementary information provided by HYSPLIT (Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory Model) air mass back trajectories, MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) images, forecast aerosol models, and synoptic maps, which have been carefully reviewed by a human observer for each day included in the DD inventory. This identification method allows the detection of low and moderate DD intrusions and also of mixtures of mineral dust with other aerosol types by means of the analysis of α. During the period studied (2003–2014), a total of 152 DD episodes composed of 418 days are identified. Overall, this means ∼ 13 episodes and ∼ 35 days per year with DD intrusion, representing 9.5 % days year−1. During the identified DD intrusions, 19 daily exceedances over 50 µg m−3 are reported at the surface. The occurrence of DD event days during the year peaks in March and June, with a marked minimum in April and lowest occurrence in winter. A large interannual variability is observed showing a statistically significant temporal decreasing trend of ∼ 3 days year−1. The DD impact on the aerosol climatology is addressed by evaluating the DD contribution in magnitude and percent (in brackets) for AOD, PM10, PM2.5, and PM2.5 − 10, obtaining mean values of 0.015 (11.5 %), 1.3 µg m−3 (11.8 %), 0.55 µg m−3 (8.5 %) and 0.79 µg m−3 (16.1 %), respectively. Annual cycles of the DD contribution for AOD and PM10 present two maxima – one in summer (0.03 and 2.4 µg m−3 for AOD in June and PM10 in August) and another in March (0.02 for AOD and 2.2 µg m−3 for PM10) – both displaying a similar evolution with exceptions in July and September. The seasonal cycle of the DD contribution to AOD does not follow the pattern of the total AOD (close to a bell shape), whereas both PM10 cycles (total and DD contribution) are more similar to each other in shape, with an exception in September. The interannual evolution of the DD contribution to AOD and PM10 has evidenced a progressive decrease. This decline in the levels of mineral dust aerosols can explain up to 30 % of the total aerosol load decrease observed in the study area during the period 2003–2014. The relationship between columnar and surface DD contribution shows a correlation coefficient of 0.81 for the interannual averages. Finally, synoptic conditions during DD events are also analysed, observing that the north African thermal low causes most of the events ( ∼  53 %). The results presented in this study highlight the relevance of the area studied since it can be considered representative of the clean background in the western Mediterranean Basin where DD events have a high impact on aerosol load levels.

Short summary
This study presents the first desert dust (DD) long-term inventory simultaneously using columnar aerosol optical depth (AOD) and the Ångström exponent and surface particulate-matter (PM) concentrations. The DD contribution to the aerosol load is evaluated in the period 2003–2014 for columnar and surface data, analysing the correlation between DD contributions to AOD and PM10. Saharan mineral dust can explain up to 30 % of the total aerosol load decrease observed in the study area.
Final-revised paper