Sources, frequency, and chemical nature of dust events impacting the United States East Coast

Abdulmonam M. Aldhaif, David H. Lopez, Hossein Dadashazar, Armin Sorooshian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This study examines 14 years (2004–2017) of surface aerosol composition data from the EPA IMPROVE network with a focus on the monthly profile, sources, and chemical nature of extreme dust events (>92nd percentile of fine soil concentration each month) impacting ten sites along the United States East Coast ranging in latitude from Florida to Maine. Based on trajectory, remote sensing, and reanalysis data, dust events were categorized into four source categories: African, Asian, Mix (African + Asian), and Other (anything other than African and Asian). The results reveal that extreme dust events account for between 3.3% and 4.6% of total available days depending on the site. March-April-May (MAM) had the most (174) dust events, followed by June-July-August (JJA) with 172, and then by September-October-November (SON) with 160 and December-January-February (DFJ) with 150. There is a variability in the predominant dust sources based on latitude, with African and Other sources more influential from North Carolina to the south, while Asian and Other were most important from New Jersey to the north. The Mix category is consistently the least frequent dust category at all sites. The African dust category was linked to the highest fine soil levels across the entire East Coast relative to other sources regardless of location. JJA is mostly impacted by African dust for sites ranging from Florida to New Jersey, while MAM is dominated by Asian dust for all sites. Mix events occurred mostly between April and October and Other events were most common outside of MAM and JJA seasons. Seven out of ten sites had Other as the most dominant source. Aerosol constituents organic carbon (OC) and elemental carbon (EC) had higher average concentrations in Other events (2.39 ± 0.78 μg m−3 and 0.79 ± 0.81 μg m−3, respectively) as compared to the other three source categories, suggestive of regional anthropogenic emissions. Moreover, the ratios of elements (Si:Al, K:Fe, Fe:Ca, Al:Ca) contributing to fine soil and PM2.5:PM10 exhibited distinct values depending on the dust source category and the site. This study builds on the growing evidence of the importance of long-range transport of dust in impacting distant regions and how a variety of sources can impact the U.S. East Coast at all times of the year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number117456
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Jun 15 2020


  • African dust
  • Asian dust
  • Dust
  • EVS-3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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