Shape-induced gravitational sorting of Saharan dust during transatlantic...

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Yang, W., A. Marshak, A. B. Kostinski, and T. Várnai (2013), Shape-induced gravitational sorting of Saharan dust during transatlantic voyage: Evidence from CALIOP lidar depolarization measurements, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 1-6, doi:10.1002/grl.50603.
Abstract: 

Motivated by the physical picture of shape-dependent air resistance and, consequently, shape-induced differential sedimentation of dust particles, we searched for and found evidence of dust particle asphericity affecting the evolution and distribution of dust-scattered light depolarization ratio (d). Specifically, we examined a large data set of Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) observations of Saharan dust from June to August 2007. Observing along a typical transatlantic dust track, we find that (1) median d is uniformly distributed between 2 and 5 km altitudes as the elevated dust leaves the west coast of Africa, thereby indicating uniformly random mixing of particle shapes with height; (2) vertical homogeneity of median d breaks down during the westward transport: between 2 and 5 km d increases with altitude and this increase becomes more pronounced with westward progress; (3) d tends to increase at higher altitude (>4 km) and decrease at lower altitude (<4 km) during the westward transport. All these features are captured qualitatively by a minimal model (two shapes only), suggesting that shape-induced differential settling and consequent sorting indeed contribute significantly to the observed temporal evolution and vertical stratification of dust properties. By implicating particle shape as a likely cause of gravitational sorting, these results will affect the estimates of radiative transfer through Saharan dust layers.

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Research Program: 
Radiation Science Program (RSP)