Differences in Fine- Coarse Aerosol Ratios in Convective and Non-Convective Dust Events in a Desert City
Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:15 PM
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.