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Influence of Mesoscale Dynamics and Turbulence on Fine Dust Transport in Owens Valley

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  • 1 University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Monterey, California
  • | 2 Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, California
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Abstract

Fine dust particles emitted from Owens (dry) Lake in California documented during the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) of 2006 have been examined using surface observations and a mesoscale aerosol model. Air quality stations around Owens (dry) Lake observed dramatic temporal and spatial variations of surface winds and dust particulate concentration. The hourly particulate concentration averaged over a 2-month period exhibits a strong diurnal variation with a primary maximum in the afternoon, coincident with a wind speed maximum. The strongest dust event documented during the 2-month-long period, with maximum hourly and daily average particulate concentrations of 7000 and 1000 μg m−3, respectively, is further examined using output from a high-resolution mesoscale aerosol model simulation. In the morning, with the valley air decoupled from the prevailing westerlies (i.e., cross valley) above the mountaintop, fine particulates are blown off the dry lake bed by moderate up-valley winds and transported along the valley toward northwest. The simulated strong westerlies reach the western part of the valley in the afternoon and more fine dust is scoured off Owens (dry) Lake than in the morning. Assisted by strong turbulence and wave-induced vertical motion in the valley, the westerlies can transport a substantial fraction of the particulate mass across the Inyo Mountains into Death Valley National Park.

Corresponding author address: Qingfang Jiang, UCAR, Monterey, CA 93943. Email: jiang@nrlmry.navy.mil

Abstract

Fine dust particles emitted from Owens (dry) Lake in California documented during the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) of 2006 have been examined using surface observations and a mesoscale aerosol model. Air quality stations around Owens (dry) Lake observed dramatic temporal and spatial variations of surface winds and dust particulate concentration. The hourly particulate concentration averaged over a 2-month period exhibits a strong diurnal variation with a primary maximum in the afternoon, coincident with a wind speed maximum. The strongest dust event documented during the 2-month-long period, with maximum hourly and daily average particulate concentrations of 7000 and 1000 μg m−3, respectively, is further examined using output from a high-resolution mesoscale aerosol model simulation. In the morning, with the valley air decoupled from the prevailing westerlies (i.e., cross valley) above the mountaintop, fine particulates are blown off the dry lake bed by moderate up-valley winds and transported along the valley toward northwest. The simulated strong westerlies reach the western part of the valley in the afternoon and more fine dust is scoured off Owens (dry) Lake than in the morning. Assisted by strong turbulence and wave-induced vertical motion in the valley, the westerlies can transport a substantial fraction of the particulate mass across the Inyo Mountains into Death Valley National Park.

Corresponding author address: Qingfang Jiang, UCAR, Monterey, CA 93943. Email: jiang@nrlmry.navy.mil

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