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The mysterious long-range transport of giant mineral dust particles

van der Does, M., Knippertz, P., Zschenderlein, P., Harrison, G. ORCID: and Stuut, J.-B. (2018) The mysterious long-range transport of giant mineral dust particles. Science Advances, 4 (12). eaau2768. ISSN 2375-2548

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau2768


Giant mineral dust particles (>75 µm diameter) found far from their source have puzzled scientists for a long time. These wind-blown particles impact the atmosphere’s radiation balance, clouds and the ocean carbon cycle but are generally ignored in models. Here we report new observations of individual giant Saharan dust particles of up to 450 µm in diameter sampled in air over the Atlantic Ocean at 2,400 and 3,500 km from the west African coast. Past research points to fast horizontal transport, turbulence, uplift in convective systems and electrical levitation of particles as possible explanations for this fascinating phenomenon. We present a critical assessment of these mechanisms using order-of-magnitude estimates and backward trajectories. Results show that established concepts are merely able to explain our new observations. Therefore we propose several lines of research we deem promising to further advance our understanding and modelling.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:80426
Publisher:American Association for the Advancement of Science


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