U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

New Method Improves Simulation of Dust Particles over Western United States
Published: June 17, 2013
Posted: October 23, 2013

Dust from soils is an important “natural” source of aerosols, contributing a major portion of aerosol scattering (cooling) and absorption (warming) of solar radiation. However, capturing the correct source amount and sizes of aerosols as the wind blows dust from different soil and desert sources into the atmosphere is a challenge in climate models. A multi-institutional team, including a U.S. Department of Energy scientist from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, applied a new particle size distribution (PSD) of emitted dust, improving previous estimates of remote dust contributions. The new PSD is based on a simple, but physical fragmentation relation and is constrained using measured sizes. Fine surface particulate matter in the western United States is influenced not only by local sources, but also by trans-Pacific transport of Asian and African dust, with Asian dust contributing between 0.2 and 1.0 mg/m3 in the spring. The new PSD was applied to the GEOS-Chem chemical transport model and applied globally to all dust source regions. The team found that the new PSD for emitted dust in the GEOS-Chem model reduced large discrepancies between the simulated surface-level fine dust amount measured in the western United States. They also improved the ratio of fine to coarse dust, something that simply adjusting the total dust emissions did not accomplish. The model with the new PSD better simulates fine dust surface concentrations in the western United States, which is important when considering sources contributing to non-attainment of air quality standards, as well as for simulating climate and hydrological changes.

Reference: Zhang, L., J. Kok, D. Henze, Q. Li, and C. Zhao. 2013. “Improving Simulations of Fine Dust Surface Concentrations over the Western United States by Optimizing the Particle Size Distribution,” Geophysical Research Letters 40(12), 3270–75. DOI: 10.1002/grl.50591. (Reference link)

Contact: Dorothy Koch, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0105
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)