- Fieldwork will provide wide-ranging research skills and experience in the Arctic environment (e.g. Iceland, Svalbard and/or Greenland)
- Project offers a truly broad scope by linking ground observations to multiple remote sensing datasets used in Earth Observation
- An excellent opportunity to think and work across different spatial and temporal scales in understanding Arctic processes and environmental monitoring.
Emissions of mineral dust into the atmosphere from land surfaces susceptible to wind erosion are highly significant for understanding the Earth’s environmental system as a whole. Appreciation of the wide-ranging environmental influence that dust exerts is such that a full “dust cycle” concept – involving dust’s uplift, through its atmospheric residence time, to eventual deposition – is now recognised. Recently, sources of dust located in the high latitudes (≥50°N and ≥40°S), particularly the Arctic, have emerged as a potentially significant contributor of dust in the global system, especially due to large volumes of sediment supply from the glacial-fluvial system.
Broad-scale patterns of dust emissions are reasonably well-constrained, in terms of the global distribution of dust sources and the seasonality of dust emissions. There is, however, recognition that certain data sources may cause dust emissions to be under-estimated and that this under-estimation may be particularly biased towards particular types of dust events. For example, measurements of local, near-surface dust emissions are valuable for quantifying at-a-point characteristics of dust, including total dust mass, the vertical uplift of dust and the attributes of the dust, such as size and nutrient content. There is a challenge however with scaling up field measurements of dust emissions at the surface to determine their wider regional or global impact and in some cases the solution to that has been the use of satellite remote sensing. It has, however been recognised that due to their size, timing or dispersal characteristics, some regionally and/or cumulatively significant dust events can go undetected by satellite imagery, even on cloudless days. When cloud cover is present, dust emissions can be substantially under-estimated using remote sensing and this is a particular challenge that needs exploring for high latitude dust source regions with persistent and extensive cloud.
This project will integrate ground-based and satellite datasets to determine how different data sources represent Arctic dust events, with the goal to understand the data limitations and hence how under- or over-estimation of dust may be accounted for. Understanding the biases and errors associated with these different data sources will enable the establishment of criteria for fine-tuning estimates of total regional dust loading in high latitude areas.
Figure 1: Dust concentration samplers deployed in southern Iceland during an active blowing dust event.
- Dynamic Earth
Fieldwork in the Arctic will be essential for this project. Field campaigns in Iceland, Svalbard and/or Greenland will be undertaken at times of reliable, peak, dust emission in the region. A full suite of micrometeorological variables, together with vertical dust flux (the fundamental measurement of dust emission from the surface), will be quantified on actively eroding surfaces. Changing surface conditions including moisture, saltation activity and fine sediment characteristics will also be determined, as well as local dust deposition rates.
Remote sensing will provide a broader-scale “top down” component to the project. The field datasets that provide timing and magnitude of measured dust fluxes can be used to quantify what dust activity different satellite platforms are observing, or, crucially missing. The ground data also have the potential to evaluate predictions of dust emission from existing dust models.
Training and skills
Students will be awarded CENTA2 Training Credits (CTCs) for participation in CENTA2-provided and ‘free choice’ external training. One CTC equates to 1⁄2 day session and students must accrue 100 CTCs across the three years of their PhD.
Training will be provided in logistics planning for fieldwork, and field experimental set-up. The student will also develop familiarity with all specialist equipment, including datalogger programming skills that are relevant to a wide range of environmental monitoring applications. Organisation and analysis of a range of varied, complementary datasets will also lead to high-level numerical skills. The opportunity to work with remote sensing data will also enable the student to gain further experience and proficiency in satellite data and/or modelling techniques.
Partners and collaboration
Depending on the location of fieldwork, the student will become connected with international research partners, many of which are associated with the successful High Latitude and Cold Climate Dust (HLCCD) Network. Professor Throstur Thorsteinsson (University of Iceland) offers expertise for the Icelandic environment. Partnerships allowing the use of the UK’s science base in Svalbard offer other potential collaborations.
For further information about this project, please contact Dr Matt Baddock ([email protected]) or Prof. Jo Bullard ([email protected]). For general information about CENTA and the application process, please visit the CENTA website: http://www.centa.org.uk/. For enquiries about the application process, please contact the School of Social Sciences & Humanities ([email protected]).
If you wish to apply to the project, applications should include:
- A CENTA application form, downloadable from: CENTA application
- A CV with the names of at least two referees (preferably three and who can comment on your academic abilities)
- Submit your application and complete the host institution application process via: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/apply/research/. Please quote CENTA23_LU9 when completing the application form.
Applications to be received by the end of the day on Wednesday 11th January 2023.
Planning and preparation for a first field season in late spring/early summer, timed with period of most-likely dust emissions. Developing familiarity with appropriate remote sensing data, including processing and analysis techniques.
Integration of observed Year 1 data with remote sensing products. Design and execution of second field season, with a particular focus on data requirements for quantifying dust fluxes/ground-based dust detection.
Full analysis, integration and interpretation of both field datasets, together with longer timescale remote sensing record to refine understanding of dust flux drivers and satellite dust detection at high latitude study region.
Baddock, M.C. et al. (2021) Understanding dust sources through remote sensing: Making a case for CubeSats. Journal of Arid Environments, 184, 104335.
Bullard, J.E. and 13 others (2016) High-latitude dust in the Earth system. Reviews of Geophysics, 54, 447-485.
Bullard, J.E. & Austin, M.J. (2011) Dust generation on a proglacial floodplain, West Greenland. Aeolian Research, 3, 43-54.
Crusius, J. et al. (2011) Glacial flour dust storms in the Gulf of Alaska: Hydrologic and meteorological controls and their importance as a source of bioavailable iron, Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L06602.
NASA Earth Observatory (2012) Dust over Southwestern Alaska. Available at: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/79664/dust-over-southwestern-alaska (Accessed: 28 October 2019).
Urban, F.E. et al. (2017) Unseen dust emission and global dust abundance: documenting dust emission from the Mojave Desert (USA) by daily remote camera imagery and wind-erosion measurements. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, 123, 8735-8753.
While the intention is that fieldwork will provide a substantial component of the project, environmental conditions dictate the first field campaign would not occur until late spring/early summer 2024. The expectation is that any remaining restrictions will be reduced by that time. The options of Greenland, Svalbard or Iceland also maximise the chance of access to key field sites, depending on any national or travel restrictions. Fieldwork will also be remote, away from large urban centres. The project is also adaptable in that existing meteorological and climate reanalysis datasets could be used instead of field measurements where required, and the remote sensing component could be emphasised, in conjunction with some additional computer modelling emphasis.