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Asian dust transported one full circuit around the globe

Abstract

Mineral dust is usually transported long distances in the lower troposphere. There are examples of Asian dust being transported across the Pacific Ocean1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and traces of Asian dust have also been found in ice and snow cores in Greenland8 and the French Alps9. Here, we use measurements from the Cloud–Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization10, an air parcel trajectory model and a three-dimensional aerosol transport model to map the transport of dust clouds generated during a storm in China’s Taklimakan Desert during May 2007. We show that the dust-veiled clouds were lofted to the upper troposphere around 8–10 km above the Earth’s surface and transported more than one full circuit around the globe in about 13 days. When the dust reached the northwestern Pacific Ocean for the second time, the subsidence of a large-scale high-pressure system caused it to descend into the lower troposphere; some of the dust was then deposited over the ocean. Our analysis also indicates that the dust particles may have acted as ice nuclei in these high-altitude clouds, leading to the formation of cirrus clouds. We suggest that Asian dust can influence the global radiation budget by stimulating cirrus cloud formation and marine ecosystems by supplying nutrients to the open ocean.

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Figure 1: 3D distribution of globally transported Asian dust.
Figure 2: Global distribution of mineral dust deposition.

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Acknowledgements

This work was partly supported by the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research in Priority Areas ‘Western Pacific Air–Sea Interaction Study (W-PASS)’ under the Grant No. 18067005 from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan and by the Global Environment Research Fund, Ministry of Environment, Japan (C-061). The authors gratefully thank M. Mikami for his continuous encouragement during the work of this paper, and C. Hostetler for his valuable comments on the original manuscript and English proofreading. The CALIPSO data were obtained from the NASA Langley Research Center Atmospheric Sciences Data Center.

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Authors

Contributions

I.U., K.E. and K.Y. designed the entire study and coordinated all of the analyses. T.T. developed the SPRINTARS model and applied it in the global dust transport analysis. A.S., Y.H. and N.S. carried out the ground-based lidar measurement and analysis. Z.L. supported the CALIPSO data analysis. Z.W. examined the Chinese dust event data. M.U. interpreted the deposition analysis. I.U. and Z.L. wrote the manuscript with valuable inputs from all authors and M.U. led the finalization of the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Itsushi Uno.

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Uno, I., Eguchi, K., Yumimoto, K. et al. Asian dust transported one full circuit around the globe. Nature Geosci 2, 557–560 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo583

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