Dust Aerosols

Mineral dust aerosols are the most abundant type of atmospheric aerosols in terms of dry mass. They directly interact with both solar and thermal infrared radiation, known as the direct radiative effect, and thereby influence Earth’s radiative energy budget. Mineral dust aerosols could also influence the life cycle and properties of clouds, by altering the thermal structure of the atmosphere and by acting as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) and ice nuclei (IN). Dust storms and plumes can degrade air quality and generate adverse impacts on human health. These effects have given dust aerosols an important role in our Earth systems. Together with our collaborators, we aim to use satellite observation to understand the transport and distribution of dust aerosols, their optical and microphysics properties and their impacts on Earth’s radiation and geochemical cycles. Some of our publications in this direction include [Huang et al., 2015; Yu et al., 2015; Zhang et al., 2016c; Song et al., 2018c; Yu et al., 2019]. In a recent study led by my current student Qianqian Song, we derived both shortwave and longwave direct radiative effects of dust aerosols using the combination of satellite observations and radiative transfer simulations. One highly important finding from this study is that the warming effect of dust aerosols in the longwave is significantly (about 30%) and in the opposite sign compared to the cooling effect of dust in the shortwave region. Last year, Qianqian won the prestigious and highly competitive FINESST fellowship from NASA, which will support her to continue her research on dust radiative effects. In addition, our group also received a grant from the CALIPSO-CloudSat program last year to study the radiative signature of dust aerosols in the thermal infrared region. This research will fill an important gap in our observation of dust during nighttime and help us better quantify the net radiative effect of dust aerosols.