Helmholtz Young Investigator Group on Mineral Dust

A big unknown in the climate impact of atmospheric aerosol: Mineral soil dust

Aerosols and clouds contribute the largest uncertainty to estimates of the Earth’s energy budget. Mineral soil dust is the dominant contributor to the global aerosol mass. Dust has severe impacts on climate, air quality, transportation, health, economy, and solar-power generation in many areas of the world, including Europe.

The particle-size distribution, shape, and composition of dust aerosol mainly determine its climate impact. For example, airborne dust particles can act as efficient ice nuclei and can thereby affect cloud formation. The particles’ properties, not least their size, play an important role and determine their efficacy to promote ice nucleation. Recent observations show that dust particles much larger than previously thought are transported over long distances. Numerical models are currently unable to reproduce the transport, neither the emission, of such giant particles.

This Helmholtz Young Investigator Group research group aims to investigate the emission of mineral dust particles – in particular of the giant ones – and their impact on cloud formation with the goal to better quantify the dust cycle and its impacts.

Mineral dust emission strongly depends on the properties of the land-surface, of the individual particles, and the near-surface winds, which makes its prediction with numerical models difficult. To advance existing models and to facilitate accurate dust predictions, we investigate the dust emission and dust ice nucleation processes using theoretical concepts, field and laboratory measurements, and numerical modeling; and we aim to improve the representation of the land-surface in models as a boundary condition for dust modeling. To achieve this, they are working closely with national and international partners.

Photograph ©: Martina Klose

Barcelona Dust Regional Center