Saharan dust intrusions in the Iberian Peninsula: Predominant synoptic conditions

Russo A., Sousa P.M., Durão R.M. Ramos A.M., Salvador P., Linares C., Diaz J., Trigo R.M.
Science of the Total Environment, 717, 137041, doi:

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The Iberian Peninsula (IP) is recurrently affected by dust transport from the Sahara Desert and from the semi-arid Sahel regions. African dust is one of the most important sources of particulate matter in the southern Mediterranean. Therefore, it is vital to understand the underlying processes that lead to episodes of air pollution associated to the occurrence of dust intrusions. This work proposes to make an extended characterization of the preferential circulation weather patterns associated to the onset of dust events affecting the IP between 2006 and 2016. Saharan dust intrusions were analysed and an automatic objective classification procedure was used to classify circulation weather patterns associated to dust events. The spatial distribution of intrusion episodes is not homogeneous throughout the IP, occurring less frequently at northern and northwestern locations than at central and southern sites. Moreover, days with Saharan dust intrusions were more frequent in summer months, and more probable to occur under regimes with a southerly component. Finally, two extreme events with high concentration of particulate matter were analysed relatively to their life-cycle and particle trajectories. The distinct extreme episodes can be associated to different synoptic situations. However, and despite different large-scale configurations, a south or south-easterly component over the region is responsible for the establishment of a dust transport from the Saharan region towards Iberia, and thus leading to the intrusion onset. These results were supported by the calculation of back-trajectories which allowed to source apportioning the particles' origin, through a clear trajectory of air parcels originating from northern Africa in both events. The proposed framework can be useful to the prediction of dust and air pollution events based on the forecast of circulation weather patterns, as the results show that these events across the IP are mainly induced by specific patterns.