Wednesday, August 5, 2009

China’s dust travels full global circuit

Naomi Lubick in Environmental Science & Technology: Researchers tracked a dust-storm cloud from China as it traveled all the way around the world, finally settling in the Pacific Ocean after a 13-day flight. This particular dust cloud stayed aloft much longer than any tracked before, according to a new study in Nature Geosciences... The work represents a technological jump in the ability to track dust as it travels around the planet and provides new insight into atmospheric chemistry and the transport of pollutants through the atmosphere.

Past research has followed dust from the Sahara across the Atlantic Ocean and from China to the Pacific Northwest and even farther east. But researchers logging these dust packets have found they touch down in several days and only travel halfway around the world.

The new record was documented by an international team led by Itsushi Uno of the Research Institute for Applied Mechanics at Kyushu University (Japan). The group tracked a packet of dust from China’s Taklimakan Desert in May 2007 by analyzing data from CALIPSO, a satellite launched by NASA in 2006. The satellite uses remote optical sensing technology known as LIDAR to gather higher-definition data on the quantity and size of aerosol particles (dust) in the atmosphere…..

A 2001 dust storm in China, courtesy of NASA

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