Climatic factors contributing to long-term variations in surface fine dust concentration in the United States

Pu, Bing; Ginoux, Paul

High concentrations of dust particles can cause respiratory problems and increase non-accidental mortality. Studies found fine dust (with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 inline-formulaµm) is an important component of the total PMinline-formula2.5 mass in the western and central US in spring and summer and has positive trends. This work examines climatic factors influencing long-term variations in surface fine dust concentration in the US using station data from the Interagency Monitoring Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) network during 1990–2015. The variations in the fine dust concentration can be largely explained by the variations in precipitation, surface bareness, and 10 m wind speed. Moreover, including convective parameters such as convective inhibition (CIN) and convective available potential energy (CAPE) that reveal the stability of the atmosphere better explains the variations and trends over the Great Plains from spring to fall.

While the positive trend of fine dust concentration in the southwestern US in spring is associated with precipitation deficit, the increase in fine dust over the central Great Plains in summer is largely associated with enhanced CIN and weakened CAPE, which are caused by increased atmospheric stability due to surface drying and lower-troposphere warming. The strengthening of the Great Plains low-level jet also contributes to the increase in fine dust concentration in the central Great Plains in summer via its positive correlation with surface winds and negative correlation with CIN.

Summer dusty days in the central Great Plains are usually associated with a westward extension of the North Atlantic subtropical high that intensifies the Great Plains low-level jet and also results in a stable atmosphere with subsidence and reduced precipitation.

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Pu, Bing / Ginoux, Paul: Climatic factors contributing to long-term variations in surface fine dust concentration in the United States. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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