Modelling the spatial distribution, direct radiative forcing and impact of mineral dust on boundary layer dynamics
Thesis DisciplineEnvironmental Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Mineral dust aerosols, the tiny soil particles in the atmosphere, play a key role in the atmospheric radiation budget through their radiative and cloud condensation nuclei effects. It is therefore important to evaluate the radiative forcing of mineral dust and subsequent changes in atmospheric dynamics. The Weather Research and Forecasting with Chemistry (WRF/Chem) regional model with the integrated dust modules and available observations have been used to investigate the three-dimensional distribution of mineral dust over Australia. Additionally, the WRF/Chem model was used to estimate the direct radiative forcing by mineral dust over Australia. Particular emphasize has been given to direct radiative feedback effect of mineral dust on boundary layer dynamics. Two dust emission schemes embedded within the WRF/Chem model have been utilized in this study: the dust transport (DUSTRAN) and the Goddard Global Ozone Chemistry Aerosol Radiation and Transport (GOCART) schemes. The refractive index of mineral dust depends on the mineralogy, size and composition of dust over a given region. The refractive index of mineral dust for shortwave radiation was considered to be wavelength independent and set based on previous mineralogical studies over North Africa and Australia. However, the refractive index of mineral dust for longwave radiation was considered to be wavelength dependent and to vary for 16 longwave spectral bands. Model results were compared with observations to validate the performance of the model, including satellite datasets from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) and Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP), as well as ground-based measurements obtained from air quality monitoring sites over Australia. The major results can be summarized as follows: (1) Lake Eyre Basin is the most important source of dust in Australia, with a peak activity identified to be during austral spring and summer, and dust emission within the basin is often associated with the passage of dry cold fronts; (2) Mineral dust from Lake Eyre Basin can be transported long distances to southeastern Australia in association with eastward propagating frontal systems, reaching as far as New Zealand and beyond, and to northern tropical Australia by postfrontal southerly winds, and subsequently towards northwestern Australia and the Indian Ocean by southeasterly trade winds; (3) Australian dust plumes are mainly transported in the lower atmosphere, although variation of boundary layer depth during the passage of cold frontal systems, as well as ascending motion at the leading edge of these systems and descending motion where postfrontal anticyclonic circulation is dominant contribute to the vertical extent of mineral dust aerosols; (4) the shortwave direct radiative effect of mineral dust results in cooling of the atmosphere from the surface to near the boundary layer top, but warming of the boundary layer top and lower free atmosphere; (5) changes in the vertical profile of temperature result in an overall decrease of wind speed in the lower boundary layer and an increase within the upper boundary layer and lower free atmosphere; (6) the longwave warming effect of mineral dust partly offsets its shortwave cooling effect at the surface. This compensation is significantly larger over and immediately downwind of dust source regions where coarse particles are more abundant, as they have stronger interaction with longwave radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface; (7) both shortwave and longwave radiative forcing by mineral dust was found to have a diurnal variation in response to changes in solar zenith angle and in the intensity of longwave radiation, respectively; (8) the absorptive nature of dust was shown to be associated with the shortwave heating of the atmosphere; (9) on the other hand, longwave cooling of the atmosphere was identified because absorption of longwave radiation by dust is less than its emission to the surface and top of the atmosphere (TOA).