Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny Dust Particles From Asian Deserts Common Over Western United States

Date:
December 14, 2007
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Dust from the Gobi and Taklimakan deserts in China and Mongolia is routinely present in the air over the western United States during spring months, a researcher has found. He found that in years with large Asian dust storms there was an increase in particles of 2.5 microns or less in the air over the western United States. Particles that small can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs and are a health concern.

It has been a decade since University of Washington scientists first pinpointed specific instances of air pollution, including Gobi Desert dust, traversing the Pacific Ocean and adding to the mix of atmospheric pollution already present along the West Coast of North America.

Now a UW researcher is finding that dust from the Gobi and Taklimakan deserts in China and Mongolia is routinely present in the air over the western United States during spring months.

"We are interested in Asian dust that comes across the Pacific because particles can have an impact on health, as well as on visibility," said Emily Fischer, a UW doctoral student in atmospheric sciences.

"Most previous work has been very event specific, but this research looks at how the average background aerosol concentrations vary on a year-to-year basis."

Aerosols are tiny particles -- such as dust, grains of sea salt, soot from fossil fuel combustion and smoke from forest fires -- suspended in the air. Many of the aerosols are comparatively large, as much as 10 microns, which still is less than the width of a human hair.

Fischer found that in years with large Asian dust storms there was an increase in particles of 2.5 microns or less in the air over the western United States. Particles that small can be inhaled more deeply into the lungs and so are a greater health concern.

"Local pollution makes the biggest contribution to poor air quality in cities, but my study is looking at aerosols in remote regions like national parks," she said. "In these places dust can be a larger contributor to the total aerosol concentrations because there is little local pollution. While some of the dust pulses from Asia are small, some of them can be very large."

Fischer used two sets of data, gathered during March, April and May from 1998 through 2006, to correlate the dust kicked up in storms over Asian deserts and the appearance of dust in air over the western United States. She looked at dust levels in the air columns directly over the deserts, recorded by NASA satellites, and then paired that information with air quality data from ground stations in rural areas of the western United States for the same period.

For the dust detected at ground stations in the United States, Fischer also looked for -- and found -- evidence of calcium, which is a tracer for desert dust.

"The calcium lends more confidence to our conclusion," she said.

While the results of the research are not unexpected, they provide supporting evidence that particles of 2.5 microns or smaller appear in higher concentrations in the western United States in years when there are high dust concentrations over Asian deserts.

"The transport of dust across the Pacific is not a new phenomenon," Fischer said. "But we are just beginning to understand it and quantify it on a year-to-year basis instead of on a case-by-case basis.

"We know that just having dust over Asia doesn't mean that it's going to come here. There is the transportation part of the puzzle, which I'm working on now. But we already know that some years are more favorable than others for dust to be transported across the Pacific."

The research is being presented at this year's annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Fischer's doctoral adviser is Dan Jaffe, a University of Washington, Bothell, atmospheric scientist who was the first to trace air pollution from Asia as it crossed the North Pacific. Jaffe is a collaborator on Fischer's research, along with Christina Hsu and Myeong-Jae Jeong of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Sunling Gong of Environment Canada.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Tiny Dust Particles From Asian Deserts Common Over Western United States." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071213000427.htm>.
University of Washington. (2007, December 14). Tiny Dust Particles From Asian Deserts Common Over Western United States. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071213000427.htm
University of Washington. "Tiny Dust Particles From Asian Deserts Common Over Western United States." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071213000427.htm (accessed October 2, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

Dolphins and Turtles Under Threat in Pakistan

AFP (Oct. 2, 2014) — The turtles and Dolphins of Pakistan's Indus river - both protected by law - are in a fight for their survival as man's activities threatens their futures. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan Volcano Rescue Video Released

Raw: Japan Volcano Rescue Video Released

AP (Oct. 2, 2014) — The Tokyo Fire Department released video of rescue efforts following Saturday's eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan. It shows firefighters and military troops carrying injured people as plumes of smoke pour from the volcano behind them. (Oct. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: 12 More Bodies Found on Japan Volcano

Raw: 12 More Bodies Found on Japan Volcano

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) — A dozen more bodies were found Wednesday as Japanese rescuers resumed efforts to find survivors and retrieve bodies of those trapped by Mount Ontake's eruption. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins