Geomorphic and Chemical Characteristics of Dust and Soil in the Eastern Great Basin of Utah, U.S.A.

Monday, 15 December 2014
Maura Hahnenberger, Salt Lake Community College, Geoscience, Salt Lake City, UT, United States, Kathleen Nicoll, University of Utah, Geography, Salt Lake City, UT, United States and Kevin D Perry, University of Utah, Atmospheric Sciences, Salt Lake City, UT, United States
This study identifies anthropogenically disturbed areas and barren playa surfaces as the two primary dust source types that repeatedly contribute to dust storm events in the eastern Great Basin of western Utah, U.S.A. Further, dust samples were found to be distinctally different elementally compared to soil samples in this region. This analysis used MODIS and USDA Land cover data to identify 4 major and 5 secondary source areas for dust in this region, which produce dust primarily during the spring and fall months and during moderate or greater drought conditions. The largest number of observed dust plumes (~ 60% of all plumes) originated from playas (ephemeral lakes) and are classified as barren land cover with a silty clay soil sediment surface. Anthropogenic disturbance is necessary to produce dust from the vegetated landscape in the eastern Great Basin, as evidenced by the new dust source active from 2008 to 2010 in the area burned by the 2007 Milford Flat Fire; this fire was the largest in Utah's history due to extensive cover of invasive cheatgrass along with drought conditions. Dust and soil samples contain similar enrichments of major soil elements, however, dust samples were significantly more enriched in Na derived from the surface salts of the Sevier Dry Lake. Trace elements were generally more enriched in dust samples and had larger enrichment values than seen in previous studies. Further, for dust and soil samples, the fine fraction (<2.5 µm) was more enriched in trace elements than the coarse fraction (2.5 to 10 µm). Composition of dust transported has influences on human health, ecosystem functioning, and biogeochemical cycling. Dust storms in the eastern Great Basin negatively impact air quality and transportation in the populated regions of Utah; this study details an improved forecasting protocol for dust storm events that will benefit transportation planning and improve public health.