Pathways of high-latitude dust in the North Atlantic
journal contributionposted on 14.12.2016, 14:45 by Matthew Baddock, Thomas Mockford, Joanna Bullard, Throstur Thorsteinsson
The contribution of mineral dust from high-latitude sources has remained an under-examined feature of the global dust cycle. Dust events originating at high latitudes can provide inputs of aeolian sediment to regions lying well outside the subtropical dust belt. Constraining the seasonal variability and preferential pathways of dust from high-latitude sources is important for understanding the potential impacts that the dust may have on wider environmental systems, such as nearby marine or cryospheric domains. This study quantifies dust pathways from two areas exhibiting different emission dynamics in the north and south of Iceland, which is a prominent Northern Hemisphere dust source. The analysis uses air parcel trajectory modelling, and for the first time for high-latitude sources, explicitly links all trajectory simulations to time-specific (meteorological) observations of suspended dust. This approach maximises the potential for trajectories to represent dust, and illustrates that trajectory climatologies not limited to dust can grossly overestimate the potential for dust transport. Preferential pathways emerge that demonstrate the role of Iceland in supplying dust to the Northern Atlantic and sub-Arctic oceans. For dust emitted from northern sources, a dominant route exists to the northeast, into the Norwegian, Greenland and Barents Seas, although there is also potential for delivery to the North Atlantic in summer months. From the southern sources, the primary pathway extends into the North Atlantic, with a high density of trajectories extending as far south as 50ºN, particularly in spring and summer. Common to both southern and northern sources is a pathway to the west-southwest of Iceland into the Denmark Strait and towards Greenland. For trajectories simulated at ≤500 m, the vertical development of dust plumes from Iceland is limited, likely due to the stable air masses of the region suppressing the potential for vertical motion. Trajectories rarely ascend high enough to reach the central portions of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The overall distribution of trajectories suggests that contributions of Icelandic dust are relatively more important for neighbouring marine environments than the cryosphere.
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This research was part-funded by a Leverhulme Trust International Network grant IN-2013-036).
- Geography and Environment