National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Climate Assessment

NASA National Climate Assessment (NCA) Activities

NASA Indicators Solicitation Proposals

Development and Testing of Potential Indicators for the National Climate Assessment

Lead PI and Center: Daniel Tong, George Mason University
Title: Development and Testing of a Dust Indicator for Climate Assessment in the Western United States

Dust activity is an important indicator to regional climate change. The Dust Bowl in the 1930s was the largest natural catastrophe in the North America history, caused by extended drought and poor land management. Although the severity and duration of the 1930s drought was exceptional, reconstructed paleo-climatic records show that the central U.S. plains have experienced severe droughts about once or twice a century over the past 400 years. Dust record is hence an integral component of the national climate assessment. The objectives of this proposed work are: 1) to develop a climate-quality indicator of local windblown dust storms in the U.S.; 2) to test and validate the dust indicator data using NASA satellite dust detection and model products; and 3) to assess the status and long-term trends in the dust indicator at local, regional and national levels.

We propose to develop and test a 30-year dust activity indicator for the western United States and to fully participate in the NASA indicator system team initiative. For the arid and semi-arid regions of the western United States, we have developed a novel approach to identify local windblown dust events through routine ambient aerosol monitoring. This proposed work will use the dust identification algorithm from Tong et al. (Atmos. Chem. Phys., 2012) to develop a dust storm dataset (dust indicator), and rely on satellite dust detection and model dust prediction as independent data sources to test, cross-check and validate the dust indicator. The proposed work consists of three major research activities, indicator development, satellite-based validation, and model-based validation. The first one is to develop a dust indicator dataset using the IMPROVE ground observations and the dust identification algorithm. The output of this step will be tested using either satellite dust data or GOCART dust model prediction, depending on the results of cloud screening and other constraints of the satellite products.

The proposed work will extend our research capabilities to contribute developing new climate indicators that are especially aimed at needs of local environmental managers in the Southwestern communities. The success of this proposed project will create a practical dust indicator to inform local decision-makers in the Southwest of current status and trends of duct activity within their own jurisdiction and beyond through regionally coordinated mitigation and adaption planning. The proposed work will benefit the scientific community by providing a rigorously validated local dust dataset suitable for evaluating model prediction and validating satellite aerosol products. The long-term trends in the dust indicator will advance our knowledge of changes in an important climate variable.

The proposed work falls clearly within the areas delineated in the 2011 NASA Strategic Plan. It will develop and test a new climate indicator, by extensively utilizing NASA satellite and model data, for future national climate assessments. Outcomes from this work could be immediately integrated with other indicators in the NCA system to support the 2013 national climate assessment. The public and local/state government managers will benefit from the improved dust indicator information relevant to decision-making about climate change and air quality, so that the advances in Earth system sciences can be utilized at local governments to meet the challenges of climate and environmental change.