An overview of regional and local characteristics of aerosols in South Africa using satellite, ground, and modeling data

S. P. Hersey, R. M. Garland, E. Crosbie, T. Shingler, A. Sorooshian, S. Piketh, R. Burger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


We present a comprehensive overview of particulate air quality across the five major metropolitan areas of South Africa (Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Tshwane (Gauteng Province), the Industrial Highveld Air Quality Priority Area (HVAPA), and Durban), based on a decadal (1 January 2000 to 31 December 2009) aerosol climatology from multiple satellite platforms and detailed analysis of ground-based data from 19 sites throughout Gauteng Province. Satellite analysis was based on aerosol optical depth (AOD) from MODIS Aqua and Terra (550 nm) and MISR (555 nm) platforms, Ångström Exponent (±) from MODIS Aqua (550/865 nm) and Terra (470/660 nm), ultraviolet aerosol index (UVAI) from TOMS, and results from the Goddard Ozone Chemistry Aerosol Radiation and Transport (GOCART) model. At continentally influenced sites, AOD, ±, and UVAI reach maxima (0.12-0.20, 1.0-1.8, and 1.0-1.2, respectively) during austral spring (September-October), coinciding with a period of enhanced dust generation and the maximum integrated intensity of close-proximity and subtropical fires identified by MODIS Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS). Minima in AOD, ±, and UVAI occur during winter. Results from ground monitoring indicate that low-income township sites experience by far the worst particulate air quality in South Africa, with seasonally averaged PM10 concentrations as much as 136% higher in townships that in industrial areas.

We report poor agreement between satellite and ground aerosol measurements, with maximum surface aerosol concentrations coinciding with minima in AOD, ±, and UVAI. This result suggests that remotely sensed data are not an appropriate surrogate for ground air quality in metropolitan South Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4259-4278
Number of pages20
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 24 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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