Differences in Fine- Coarse Aerosol Ratios in Convective and Non-Convective Dust Events in a Desert City

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:15 PM
Thomas E Gill, University of Texas at El Paso, Geological Sciences / Environmental Science and Engineering Program, El Paso, TX, United States, Nancy I. Rivera Rivera, University of Texas at El Paso, Environmental Science and Engineering Program, El Paso, TX, United States and David J. Novlan, NOAA- National Weather Service, Santa Teresa, NM, United States
El Paso, Texas (USA) and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua (Mexico) form the Paso del Norte, the largest metropolitan area in North America's Chihuahuan Desert. The cities are subject to frequent dust storms presenting a hazard to local infrastructure and health, including synoptic-scale dust events during winter and spring, and dusty outflows from convective storms (haboobs) primarily during the summer. We evaluate particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) concentrations over a decade of convective and non-convective dust events, based on hourly aerosol data collected by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) continuous air monitors in El Paso cross-referenced to weather observations from the USA National Weather Service. A total of 219 dust events (95 convective and 124 non-convective) events occurred between 2001 and 2010. The PM2.5/PM10 ratio was significantly higher (proportionally greater concentration of fine aerosols) in convective episodes and during summertime events than during non-convective dust events and dust episodes in other seasons, although overall concentrations of both PM2.5 and PM10 were higher in the non-convective events, which were also longer-lasting. These differences in fine/coarse aerosol ratios are likely related to different atmospheric stability conditions, and/or different mechanisms of dust particle entrainment and transport in haboobs versus non-convective dust events. Since visibility degradation and adverse human health effects are known to be exacerbated by to fine aerosol concentrations, thunderstorm-related dust events may present a proportionally greater hazard.