Two mega sand and dust storm events over northern China in March 2021: transport processes, historical ranking and meteorological drivers
- 1State Key Laboratory of Severe Weather & Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry of CMA, Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, Beijing, 100081, China
- 2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences & Institute of Atmospheric Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200438, China
- 3National Meteorological Center, CMA, Beijing 100081, China
- 4Institute of Atmospheric Environment, China Meteorological Administration, Shenyang, 110166, China
Abstract. Although a remarkable reduction in the frequency of sand and dust storms (SDSs) in the past several decades has been reported over northern China (NC), two unexpected mega SDSs occurred on March 15–20, 2021 and March 27–29, 2021 (abbreviated as the “3.15” and “3.27” SDS events), which has reawakened widespread concern. This study characterizes the origins, transport processes, magnitudes of impact, and meteorological causes of these two SDS events using a long-term (2000–2021) dust optical depth (DOD) dataset retrieved from MODIS measurements and a comprehensive set of multiple satellite and ground-based observations combined with atmospheric reanalysis data. During the 3.15/3.27 event, the invasion of dust plumes greatly degraded the air quality over large areas of NC, reaching extremely hazardous levels, with the maximum daily mean PM10 concentration of 7058 µg m−3 (2670 µg m−3) recorded on March 15 (28). CALIOP observations show that during the 3.15 event the dust plume was lifted to an altitude of 4–8 km, and its range of impact extended from the dust source to the eastern coast of China. In contrast, the lifting height of the dust plume during the 3.27 event was lower than that during 3.15 event, which was also confirmed by ground-based Lidar observations. The MODIS-retrieved DOD data registered these two massive SDS events as the most intense episode in the same period in history over the past two decades. These two extreme SDS events were associated with both atmospheric circulation extremes and local meteorological anomalies that favored enhanced dust emissions in the Gobi Desert (GD) across southern Mongolia and NC. Meteorological analysis revealed that both SDS events were triggered by an exceptionally strong Mongolian cyclone generated at nearly the same location (along the central and eastern plateau of Inner Mongolia) in conjunction with a surface-level cold high-pressure system at the rear, albeit with differences in magnitude and spatial extent of impact. In the GD, the early melting of spring snow caused by near-surface temperature anomalies over dust source regions, together with negative soil moisture anomalies induced by decreased precipitation, formed drier and barer soil surfaces, which allowed for increased emissions of dust into the atmosphere by strongly enhanced surface winds generated by the Mongolian cyclone.
Ke Gui et al.
Status: final response (author comments only)
RC1: 'Comment on acp-2021-933', Anonymous Referee #1, 20 Dec 2021
- AC1: 'A quick response to the referees' general comments', Huizheng Che, 24 Dec 2021
- RC2: 'Comment on acp-2021-933', Anonymous Referee #2, 04 Jan 2022
Ke Gui et al.
Ke Gui et al.
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