Aerosol chemical and radiative properties in the tropical Atlantic trade winds: The importance of African mineral dust

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry

First Committee Member

Joseph M. Prospero, Committee Chair


This dissertation presents results relevant to aerosol radiative forcing. The focus of this dissertation is the role of mineral dust in atmospheric radiative processes over the tropical Atlantic Ocean.The aerosol mass and light scattering data concurrently measured over the tropical North Atlantic ocean yield a dust mass scattering efficiency of 0.77 m2/g, about a quarter of that measured for non-sea-salt sulfate (nss SO4=) in the North Atlantic marine boundary layer. Because of the high concentration of mineral dust relative to nss SO4= over the tropical North Atlantic, the total scattering by mineral dust is about four times that by nss SO4 = aerosol in this region. On an annual basis, aerosol optical depth is apportioned to: mineral dust 71%, nss-SO4 = 16% and sea salt 13%.The coarse-particle fraction (CPF) (aerodynamic diameter > 1 mum) of nss SO4= varied from about 21% to 73%, with the highest CPF values associated with African dust events. The CPF nss SO 4= was believed to be a result of the heterogeneous reactions of SO2 (presumably from European sources) with dust particles suspended in the air over North Africa. This study provides the first direct evidence that confirms the importance of dust in sulfate production and resulting the coarse particle sulfate in the tropical Atlantic Ocean region. An important implication is that dust particles may reduce the effectiveness of sulfate aerosol as a radiative forcing agent in many regions where dust events are frequent and where dust concentrations are high.The aerosol scattering coefficient (ASC) measured during this experiment increased by a factor of 1.13 to 1.69 when RH was increased from about 40% to 80%. Through chemical apportioning of ASC, the HGF for sea-salt was found to be 1.8 +/- 0.2, while that of mineral dust was close to unity.This study shows that climate studies must consider the effect of mineral dust not only because of its direct effects on the radiation balance but also because of its effects on the radiative properties of other species that are present in the same air mass.


Physics, Atmospheric Science

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