Project highlights

  • Fieldwork campaigns providing wide research skills in the Arctic environment (e.g. Greenland or Iceland)
  • Development of a novel dataset to quantify and explain dust emissions from an active Arctic dust source region
  • Project offers a broad scope by linking field empirical data to numerical environmental modelling

Overview

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 – its uplift, through atmospheric residence time, to eventual deposition – is now recognised. Suspended dust can have a role in controlling climate by influencing incoming solar radiation, and affecting global biogeochemical cycles, for instance, by providing nutrient fertilisation to oceans and triggering phytoplankton responses which cause atmospheric CO2 drawdown.

The initial process of dust emission from the surface must be well understood because this stage of the cycle is fundamental for controlling the spatial and temporal variability of atmospheric dust loading, and therefore, is a primary influence on the environmental effects dust might have. 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 to the global system, especially due to large volumes of sediment supply from the glacial-fluvial system. While process studies have been undertaken in low latitude, dryland environments, measurements of dust flux and the controls on this from both the land surface and the boundary-layer airflow, are largely absent from Arctic dust areas. The lack of knowledge concerning high latitude dust emission processes means that key uncertainties also exist regarding the relative importance of different drivers between the low and high latitudes.

Computer modelling approaches are the best way to understand the complex impacts of dust, but a key limitation of existing dust models remains their accuracy in simulating the initial raising of dust. To predict atmospheric loading, models must be able to correctly quantify the amount of dust emitted from the land surface. To improve modelling performance, field-based measurements of dust production rates and the micrometeorological factors that drive them are needed from process experiments conducted on surfaces prone to emission. Dust emission in the Arctic is particularly lacking in this regard, where a robust dataset of emission and its related drivers will have a valuable role in parametrizing current dust emission schemes for use in high latitudes.

Host

Loughborough University

Theme

  • Dynamic Earth

Supervisors

Project investigator

  • Prof. Joanna Bullard, Loughborough University

 

Co-investigators

  •  Dr. Matt Baddock, Loughborough University

How to apply

Methodology

Fieldwork in the Arctic will be essential for this project. Field campaigns in Iceland 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.

Work with the project collaborator will add a modelling component to the project. The field datasets of measured vertical dust fluxes and rates of deposition can be used to first evaluate and then constrain existing dust models as a first step to improving dust modelling in high latitudes. The benefit of detailed sedimentological input for model performance will also be tested.

 

Training and skills

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-order numerical skills. The opportunity to work with existing numerical dust emission schemes will also enable the student to gain experience and proficiency in some modelling techniques.

Partners and collaboration

Depending on the location of fieldwork, the student would be eligible to become involved in and seek support from the Arctic multi-disciplinary Kangerlussuaq International Research Network (KAIRN – Greenland) and/or the broader, global High Latitude and Cold Climate Dust Network. Both are highly active groups of international researchers that meet regularly.

To integrate the field data with dust models, there will be the excellent opportunity to collaborate with Dr Kerstin Schepanski, an internationally renowned dust modeller at the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS), Leipzig, Germany.

Further details

For further information about this project, please contact Prof Jo Bullard (J.E.Bullard@lboro.ac.uk) or Dr Matthew Baddock (m.c.baddock@lboro.ac.uk). For enquiries about the application process, please contact the School of Social Sciences & Humanities (spgsresearch@lboro.ac.uk). Please quote CENTA when completing the application form: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/study/apply/research/.

Possible timeline

Year 1

Planning and preparation for a first field season in late Spring, timed with peak dust emissions. Analysis and interpretation of initial dataset and field samples.

Year 2

Applying Year 1 dataset to existing dust models. Design and execution of second field season, with a particular focus on data requirements for improved dust emission modelling in high latitudes.

Year 3

Detailed analysis, integration and interpretation of both field datasets, leading to refinement of dust emission schemes for accurate simulation of dust production at high latitudes.

Further reading

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.

Bullard, J.E. & Mockford, T. (2018) Seasonal and decadal variability of dust observations in the Kangerlussuaq area, West Greenland.  Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, 50, 1, S100011.

Crusius, J., A. W. Schroth, S. Gassó, C. M. Moy, R. C. Levy, and M. Gatica (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).

 

COVID-19

While this is a fieldwork focused project, environmental conditions dictate the first field campaign would not occur until late Spring/early summer 2022. Hopefully pandemic restrictions will be reduced by that time. The option of Greenland or Iceland also maximises the chance of access to the field site, depending on national restrictions. Fieldwork will also be remote, away from large urban centres. The project is also adaptable in that existing climate reanalysis datasets could be sued instead of field measurements where required, and the computer-based modelling component could be emphasised, in conjunction with some additional remote sensing tools.