Evaluating the relative importance of northern African mineral dust sources using remote sensing
Northern African mineral dust provides the Amazon Basin with essential nutrients during the boreal winter months, when the trajectory of the Saharan dust plume is towards South America. This process, however, is still poorly understood. There is little knowledge of where the dust is coming from, and, thus, little information regarding the concentration of nutrients in the dust. This information is vital to assess the impact it will have on the Amazon. In order to further our understanding of the problem, this study analyses northern African dust sources of the boreal winter dust seasons between the years 2015 and 2017. It utilises high spatio-temporal resolution remote sensing data from SEVIRI, MODIS, VIIRS, and Sentinel-2 to identify dust sources, classify them according to a geomorphic dust source scheme, and quantify the relative importance of source regions by calculating the total dust mass they produce. Results indicate that palaeolakes emit the most dust, with the Bodélé Depression as the single largest dust source region. However, alluvial deposits also produce a substantial amount of dust. During the boreal winter dust seasons of 2015–2017, ∼36 % of the total dust mass emitted from northern Africa was associated with alluvial deposits, yet this geomorphic category has been relatively understudied to date. Furthermore, sand deposits were found to produce relatively little dust, in contrast to the results of other recent studies.