In an Environment International journal publication, the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) presented the first systematic long-term data for dust storm events from lower latitudes reaching the Finnish atmosphere.
According to FMI, long-range transported mineral dust has a wide range of direct and indirect effects as a climate-forcer, pollutant and nutrient. The work utilized MERRA-2 satellite data, meteorological observations and modeling results. In total, 86 long-range dust transport events were identified between 1980 and 2022, when air masses loaded with dust reached Finland. Based on backward-trajectories, different sources were identified – 59 were Saharan, 22 were Aral-Caspian, and five were associated with Middle Eastern source areas.
The report also found a clear maximum of dust events in spring (60%), followed by summer and autumn, where 10 of the 11 autumn episodes were from the Sahara. However, the number and proportion of scarce winter events have more than doubled since 2010 compared to the preceding 30 years.
Next, researchers will investigate dust sources and impacts in more detail. A new IBA-ILMA project (2023-2025), lead by FMI and financed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, is expected to give an update to these first estimates using, for example, more detailed SILAM model calculations.
In addition to desert dust, the IBA-ILMA project also includes street and mining dust and the affects of dust on ecology and health. These studies are carried out by: the Finnish Environment Institute Syke; University of Helsinki Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research INAR; University of Helsinki, Department of Geosciences and Geography; and the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland.
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