Dust storm simulation over Iran using HYSPLIT
© Ashrafi et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014
Received: 9 August 2012
Accepted: 15 October 2013
Published: 7 January 2014
Particulate matters have detrimental effects on human health, environment and economic. This pollutant may emit from anthropogenic or natural sources. On global scale, main proportion of natural particulate matter release to the atmosphere because of wind erosion from arid and semi-arid regions. Recently, the amount of dust coming from Arabian countries has dramatically increased, especially dust storms that are affecting western and even central parts of Iran. This phenomenon has caused a lot of environmental problems. Dust source identification and trajectory simulation using numerical techniques are the main aims of this study. HYSPLIT (Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory) model dust module and trajectory simulation are utilized in this research and two case studies are investigated (in May and June 2010). The base of the HYSPLIT dust module is the PM10 dust storm emission algorithm for desert land use. This methodology is applied to estimate hotspots and trajectories. Due to the results, dust storms started on May 17th and June 7th because of high wind shear (>8.5 m/s) from the western Syrian Desert. The source region limited to 32.50 °N to 33.80 °N and 38.00 °E to 38.80 °E coordinates. Dust plumes lifted and dispersed towards the east and southeast of the sources and reached Ahvaz on May 18th and June 8th. The average of PM10 concentration in these dates reached 625 and 494 on Ahvaz monitoring stations, respectively. Moreover, the results gained from the model for dust motion simulation are similar to the MODIS satellite images.
There are many drawbacks with the dust phenomenon such as environmental, socio-economic, human health, climate and microclimate problems . Some of these issues are discussed as follows.
Wind-blown dust is an effective factor for the transport of pathogens and pollutants [7, 8] and also can influence air quality downwind of dust source regions by reducing visibility, soiling property and causing illnesses [9, 10]. Inhalation of dust particles can cause heart beat irregularities, heart attacks and respiratory problems, severe and chronic headaches, severe allergies and skin diseases .
Particles such as mineral dust, by absorbing ultraviolet radiation can inhibit smog production, having profound implications in the control of air pollution in urban areas . Furthermore, the interactions between wind-blown dust and anthropogenic pollutants aggravate the generation of secondary aerosols .
Dust particles have a significant effect on climate, acting both directly (by scattering and absorbing radiation) and indirectly (by changing the optical properties of clouds) on the Earth’s radiation balance . Absorption and scattering of solar radiation caused by dust events may affect air temperatures . In another way Dust fertilization (including iron and phosphorus) of poor nutrient marine environments can increase formation of phytoplankton and can influence the global cycle of carbon .
Different Techniques have been developed to identify dust hotspots and pathways. Numerical modeling, trajectory analysis, Remote sensing and satellite imagery, dust observations and metrological data analysis, mineral tracers and geological models can be applied as the principal tools used to research dust events [4, 6, 17–20].
In Iran a few studies have been carried out to determine dust sources, trajectories, contribution of dust to urban PM10 concentrations and temporal and spatial coverage of dust by using modeling techniques . It should be mentioned that most of the conducted studies on these issues used satellite images and meteorological data analysis [22, 23]. Most of the Dust storms in Iran are coming from the western and southern neighboring countries and they affect western and central regions of Iran .
In this research, the most high risk city of Iran namely Ahvaz, is chosen as the case study. According to WHO database , Ahvaz with 372 annual mean of concentration of particulate matter is the first polluted city in the world. Finding the dust sources and the trajectories which cause the dust in Iran (specially the cities of Ahvaz and Tehran) has a significant importance. Therefore, this research uses numerical modeling techniques to study meteorological parameters, sources and trajectories of suspended particles of dust storms from wind erosions events. Surly, the results aim to control and reduce the amount of pollutions.
Materials and methods
HYSPLIT model description
The HYSPLIT model uses puff or particle approaches to compute trajectories, complex dispersion and deposition. The model computation method is a combination of Eulerian (concentrations are calculated for each grid cell using integration of pollutant fluxes at every grid cell interface due to advection and diffusion) and Lagrangian (concentrations are computed by summing the contribution of each pollutant “puff” that is advected through the grid cell as represented by its trajectory) approaches.
The model utilizes meshed meteorological data on one of three conformal map projections (Polar, Lambert and Mercator). The dispersion model requires meteorological data fields that can be obtained from archives or from forecast model outputs and the datasets should be formatted for input to HYSPLIT [25, 26].
The accuracy of the model is considerably dependent on the meteorological data resolution , For this study, we used GDASc meteorological data provided by U.S NOAA.
Where z 0ns is the aerodynamic roughness length for non-saltating conditions, z is the wind measurement height and Von Karman’s constant k is assumed to be 0.4 .
In this research, dispersion simulation is done over the study area with HYSPLIT dust module. A horizontal domain of 30° × 30° with resolution of 0.05◦ × 0.05◦ and a vertical level of 100 meters above ground level is considered in dispersion model. Pollutant concentrations are sampled in every time step and are averaged over every 12 h. The turbulence mixing is computed using a diffusivity approach based on vertical stability estimates and the horizontal wind field deformation. The puff dispersion is assumed to be linear function of time. Ground level concentrations are calculated as average of the lowest 100 m within each horizontal grid cell. HYSPLIT dust storm modeling done for 0.25° × 0.25° resolution for desert dust sources and a total of 100,000 particles or puffs are released during one release cycle with a maximum of 50,000 particles permitted to be carried at any time during the simulation. Release mode is sampled with 3-dimensional (3-D) particle horizontal and vertical option.
The trajectory calculation in any Lagrangian model is based on the following the particle or puff. Therefore, once the basic meteorological data (U, V and W) has been processed and interpolated to the model grid. Trajectories can be computed to test the advection components of the model. The advection is computed from the average of the 3-D velocity vectors for the initial-position P(t) and the first-guess position P’(t + Δt). The velocity vectors are linearly interpolated in both space and time [25, 26].
In this study back trajectory simulations were used for determining source of dust storms and motion direction of dust plume over Middle East and Iran. Back trajectories started from Ahvaz (31.24 °N, 48.49 °E) and Tehran (35.42 °N, 51.25 °E) at the time of dust arrival. For HYSPLIT trajectory setting, four trajectory tracking levels including 500, 1000, 2000 and 3000 m are considered and also the top of model assumed to be 10,000 m.
Turbulence, wind fields and mixing depth values are used as inputs for dispersion model.
Results and discussion
First, the meteorological parameters surveyed in desert areas and the results showed that high wind velocity and mixing height caused to inject and lift the dust to the atmosphere, respectively. Second, dust hotspots determined in Syrian deserts and motion of dust simulated over study area using meteorological fields. The results are discussed in details as follows.
PM 10 concentrations in Ahvaz air quality stations ( )
Date of dust event
Environment dept. station
Meteorology office station
Surface metrological parameters for two dust events in source areas
Surface height (m)
Temperature at 2 m (c)
U winddat 10 m (m/s)
V windeat 10 m (m/s)
Dust module modeling results
Dust hotspots resulted by HYSPLIT dust module
May event hotspots
(32.50 °N, 38.00 °E)
(33.80 °N, 38.30 °E)
(32.50 °N, 38.25 °E)
June event hotspots
(33.75 °N, 38.25 °E)
(33.75 °N, 38.80 °E)
In the first case in May, studying arrival altitudes in Tehran and Ahvaz indicates that vertical distribution of dust in Tehran was 1000 and in Ahvaz was about 2000–3000 m. in the second case in June; height of dust plume was up to 2000 m above ground surface.
According to Figure 7, on May 17th, dust appeared in Syria and after passing over Iraq gradually moved to the western and central parts of Iran. Also Figure 8 shows that dust storm on June 7th after covering large regions of Iraq reached Khuzestan province and finally circulated towards the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula.
In this study, MODIS images confirmed the results of HYSPLIT dust modeling and it was detected that dust plumes had a circulating motion while moving towards eastern parts of Middle East.
In this research source identification and trajectory simulation of two dust storms over Iran which was caused by wind erosion are studied. The HYSPLIT model dust module was applied to a western Middle East deserts. However, the results clarified that both of dust events simulated started from Syrian Desert in similar coordinates. Due to the high shear wind speed and mixing height, dust was released from desert land-use and dispersed horizontally and vertically over the study area. In addition, strong winds transported the dust through large areas of Iraq and Kuwait reaching the significant parts of Iran in about 48 hours. Backward trajectory simulation from Tehran and Ahvaz confirmed dust sources derived by dust module. At end, dust motion in MODIS images were compared to the output of HYSPLIT simulation which showed same trends.
aScanning Imaging Absorption Spectro-Meter for Atmospheric Cartography
bHybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory
cGlobal Data Assimilation System
dZonal component of wind
eMeridional component of wind
fModerate Resolution Imaging Spectro radiometer
The authors gratefully acknowledge the technical support provided by Dr. Majid Azadi (Atmospheric Science and Meteorological Research Center) and Mr. Hossein Vahidi (Academic Center for Education, Culture and Research).
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