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Dust Storms in Northern China: Long-Term Spatiotemporal Characteristics and Climate Controls

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  • 1 Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems, Ministry of Education, and Gansu Key Laboratory for Environmental Pollution Prediction and Control, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
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Abstract

Airborne dust derived from desertification in northern China can be transported to East Asia and other regions, impairing human health and affecting the global climate. This study of northern China dust provides an understanding of the mechanism of dust generation and transportation. The authors used dust storm and climatological data from 129 sites and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) datasets in northern China to analyze spatiotemporal characteristics and determine the main factors controlling dust storms occurring during 1960–2007. Dust storm–prone areas are consistent with the spatial distribution of northern China deserts where the average wind speed (AWS) is more than 2 m s−1, the mean annual temperature (MAT) ranges from 5° to 10°C, and the mean annual precipitation (MAP) is less than 450 mm. Dust storms commonly occur on spring afternoons in a 3- to 6-h pattern. The three predominant factors that can affect DSF are the maximum wind speed, AWS, and MAT. During 1960–2007, dust storm frequency (DSF) in most regions of northern China fluctuated but had a decreasing trend; this was mainly caused by a gradual reduction in wind speed. The effect of temperature on DSF is complex, as positive and negative correlations exist simultaneously. Temperatures can affect source material (dust, sand, etc.), cyclone activity, and vegetation growth status, which influence the generation of dust storms. NDVI and precipitation are negatively correlated with DSF, but the effect is weak. Vegetation can protect the topsoil environment and prevent dust storm creation but is affected by the primary decisive influence of precipitation.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Qingyu Guan, guanqy@lzu.edu.cn

Abstract

Airborne dust derived from desertification in northern China can be transported to East Asia and other regions, impairing human health and affecting the global climate. This study of northern China dust provides an understanding of the mechanism of dust generation and transportation. The authors used dust storm and climatological data from 129 sites and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) datasets in northern China to analyze spatiotemporal characteristics and determine the main factors controlling dust storms occurring during 1960–2007. Dust storm–prone areas are consistent with the spatial distribution of northern China deserts where the average wind speed (AWS) is more than 2 m s−1, the mean annual temperature (MAT) ranges from 5° to 10°C, and the mean annual precipitation (MAP) is less than 450 mm. Dust storms commonly occur on spring afternoons in a 3- to 6-h pattern. The three predominant factors that can affect DSF are the maximum wind speed, AWS, and MAT. During 1960–2007, dust storm frequency (DSF) in most regions of northern China fluctuated but had a decreasing trend; this was mainly caused by a gradual reduction in wind speed. The effect of temperature on DSF is complex, as positive and negative correlations exist simultaneously. Temperatures can affect source material (dust, sand, etc.), cyclone activity, and vegetation growth status, which influence the generation of dust storms. NDVI and precipitation are negatively correlated with DSF, but the effect is weak. Vegetation can protect the topsoil environment and prevent dust storm creation but is affected by the primary decisive influence of precipitation.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Qingyu Guan, guanqy@lzu.edu.cn
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