An overview of the atmospheric mineral dust cycle and current research and operational activities at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center

Carlos Perez
Barcelona Supercomputing Center


Dust aerosol particles are produced by wind erosion of arid and semi-arid surfaces. Dust plumes reduce visibility to a few meters in and near source regions and are transported over long distances of thousands of kilometres. Mineral dust can be considered as unique among aerosol phenomena: (1) with the possible exception of sea-salt aerosol, it is globally the most abundant of all aerosol species, (2) it appears as the dominating component of atmospheric aerosol over large areas of the Earth, (3) close to source areas it represents a serious hazard for life, health, property, environment and economy-occasionally reaching the grade of disaster or catastrophic event-and (4) its influence, impacts, complex interactions and feedbacks within the Earth System span a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.

Recognizing the need for international cooperation in this area the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has launched the Sand and Dust Storm Warning and Assessment System (SDSWAS) that bridges the technological gap between research and operational services. The project supports a global partnership studying and predicting the atmospheric dust process. Regional activities related to modeling, observations and applications are coordinated through the Asia/Central Pacific Regional Centre for SDSWAS at the China Meteorological Agency in Beijing China, and the Regional Centre for North Africa, Middle East and Europe at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) and the Spanish meteorological service in partnership with other operational and research organizations (e.g. ECMWF, MeteoFrance).

The goal of the lecture is two-fold. First we will provide an overview of the global dust cycle, discuss on the interactions of dust with weather and climate, and summarize the main impacts of dust on health and ecosystems. Second, a description will be given of the current dust research and operational forecasting activities at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) including its contribution to the SDSWAS. Current operational forecasts are based on the well established regional dust model and forecast system Eta/DREAM. In collaboration with NCEP/EMC, the BSC is currently implementing an improved mineral dust component coupled on-line with the new unified NMMb atmospheric model. The NMMb is an evolution of the operational WRF-NMMe extending from meso to global scales, and including non-hydrostatic option and improved tracer advection.