Predicting the Mineral and Chemical Composition of Dust Aerosols: Evaluation and Implications

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Jan P Perlwitz1, Carlos Pérez García-Pando1 and Ron L Miller2, (1)Columbia Univ c/o NASA/GISS, New York, NY, United States, (2)NASA/GISS, New York, NY, United States
Soil dust aerosols in Earth system models are typically assumed to have globally uniform properties. However, important climate processes related to dust depend on the aerosol mineral and chemical composition, which varies regionally. Such processes include aerosol radiative forcing, transport of bioavailable iron that catalyzes marine photosynthesis, heterogeneous chemistry, ice nucleation, and cloud condensation.

We have implemented a new version of the soil dust aerosol scheme in the NASA GISS Earth System ModelE that takes into account the mineral composition of the dust particles. Dust aerosols are represented as an external mixture of minerals such as illite, kaolinite, smectite, carbonates, quartz, feldspar and gypsum, as well as iron oxides and accretions of iron oxides with each of the these minerals.

We present a new publically available compilation of measurements of mineral fractions derived from ca. 50 references from the literature. This compilation is used to evaluate our new model of mineral and elemental composition within ModelE. We discuss the challenges of comparing simulated mineral fractions to measurements, which often come from field campaigns and ship cruises of limited duration. Despite uncertainties of the measurements, we show the importance of estimating the undisturbed size distribution of the parent soil prior to wet sieving, along with the modification of this size distribution during emission. 

In particular, our new model reproduces measurements showing greater amount of aerosols at silt sizes (whose diameters exceed 2 μm) including significant amounts of clay mineral aerosols (like illite) at silt sizes. Our model also reduces the systematic overestimation of quartz, while allowing iron to be transported farther from its source as impurities than in its pure, crystalline form.