An analysis of seasonal surface dust aerosol concentrations in the western US (2001-2004): Observations and model predictions

Kelley C. Wells, Marcin Witek, Piotr Flatau, Sonia M. Kreidenweis, Douglas L. Westphal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Long-term surface observations indicate that soil dust represents over 30% of the annual fine (particle diameter less than 2.5 μm) particulate mass in many areas of the western US; in spring and summer, it represents an even larger fraction. There are numerous dust-producing playas in the western US, but surface dust aerosol concentrations in this region are also influenced by dust of Asian origin. This study examines the seasonality of surface soil dust concentrations at 15 western US sites using observations from the Interagency Monitoring of PROtected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) network from 2001 to 2004. Average soil concentrations in particulate matter less than 10 μm in diameter (PM10) were lowest in winter and peaked during the summer months at these sites; however, episodic higher-concentration events (>10 μg m-3) occurred in the spring, the time of maximum Asian dust transport to the western US. Simulated surface dust concentrations from the Navy Aerosol Analysis and Prediction System (NAAPS) suggested that long-range transport from Asia dominates surface dust concentrations in the western US in the spring, and that, although some long-range transport does occur throughout the year (1-2 μg m-3), locally generated dust plays a larger role in the region in summer and fall. However, NAAPS simulated some anomalously high concentrations (>50 μg m-3) of local dust in the fall and winter months over portions of the western US. Differences between modeled and observed dust concentrations were attributed to overestimation of total observed soil dust concentrations by the assumptions used to convert IMPROVE measurements into PM10 soil concentrations, lack of inhibition of model dust production in snow-covered regions, and lack of seasonal agricultural sources in the model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6585-6597
Number of pages13
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number31
StatePublished - Oct 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the DoD Center for Geosciences/Atmospheric Research at Colorado State University under Cooperative Agreement DAAD19-02-2-0005 with the Army Research Laboratory. The support of the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Laboratory through program PE-0602435N is gratefully acknowledged as well as the ONR Global NICOP project.


  • Dust
  • Long-range transport
  • Particulate monitoring
  • Rural aerosol

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