Airborne Transport of Saharan Dust to the Mediterranean and to the Atlantic

K.A. Pericleous, S. Plainiotis, and B.E.A. Fisher (UK)


Atmospheric pollution, particulate transport, Saharan dust storms, modelling


The Sahara desert is a significant source of particulate pollution not only to the Mediterranean region, but also to the Atlantic and beyond. In this paper, PM10 exceedences recorded in the UK and the island of Crete are studied and their source investigated, using Lagrangian Particle Dispersion (LPD) methods. Forward and inverse simulations identify Saharan dust storms as the primary source of these episodes. The methodology used allows comparison between this primary source and other possible candidates, for example large forest fires or volcanic eruptions. Two LPD models are used in the simulations, namely the open source code FLEXPART and the proprietary code HYSPLIT. Driven by the same meteorological fields (the ECMWF MARS archive and the PSU/NCAR Mesoscale model, known as MM5) the codes produce similar, but not identical predictions. This inter-model comparison enables a critical assessment of the physical modelling assumptions employed in each code, plus the influence of boundary conditions and solution grid density. The outputs, in the form of particle concentrations evolving in time, are compared against satellite images and receptor data from multiple ground-based sites. Quantitative comparisons are good, especially in predicting the time of arrival of the dust plume in a particular location.

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