Wet and dry African dust episodes over eastern Spain

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Abstract

[1] The impact of the African dust on levels of atmospheric suspended particulate matter (SPM) and on wet deposition was evaluated in eastern Iberia for the period 1996–2002. An effort was made to compile both the SPM and wet episodes. To this end, the time series of levels of TSP and PM10 in Levantine air quality monitoring stations were evaluated and complemented with the computation of back trajectories, satellite images, and meteorological analysis. Wet deposition frequency was obtained from weekly collected precipitation data at a rural background station in which the African chemical signature was identified (mainly pH and Ca2+ concentrations). A number of African dust episodes (112) were identified (16 episodes per year). In 93 out of the 112 (13 episodes per year) the African dust influence caused high SPM levels. In 49 out of 112 (7 episodes per year), wet deposition was detected, and the chemistry was influenced by dust. There is a clear seasonal trend with higher frequency of dust outbreaks in May-August, with second modes in March and October. Wet events followed a different pattern, with a marked maximum in May. Except for one event, December was devoid of African air mass intrusions. On the basis of seasonal meteorological patterns affecting the Iberian Peninsula, an interpretation of the meteorological scenarios causing African dust transport over Iberia was carried out. Four scenarios were identified with a clear seasonal trend. The impact of the different dust outbreak scenarios on the levels of PM10 recorded at a rural site (Monagrega, Teruel, Spain) in the period 1996–2002 was also evaluated.

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