Mapping erodibility in dust source regions based on geomorphology, meteorology, and remote sensing

Sagar Prasad Parajuli, Zong-Liang Yang, Gary Kocurek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Mineral dust in the atmosphere has implications for Earth’s radiation budget, biogeochemical cycles, hydrological cycles, human health, and visibility. Currently, the simulated vertical mass flux of dust differs greatly among the existing dust models. While most of the models utilize an erodibility factor to characterize dust sources, this factor is assumed to be static, without sufficient characterization of the highly heterogeneous and dynamic nature of dust source regions. We present a high-resolution land cover map of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in which the terrain is classified by visually examining satellite images obtained from Google Earth Professional and Environmental Systems Research Institute Basemap. We show that the correlation between surface wind speed and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer deep blue aerosol optical depth (AOD) can be used as a proxy for erodibility, which satisfactorily represents the spatiotemporal distribution of soil-derived dust sources. This method also identifies agricultural dust sources and eliminates the satellite-observed dust component that arises from long-range transport, pollution, and biomass burning. The erodible land cover of the MENA region is grouped into nine categories: (1) bedrock: with sediment, (2) sand deposit, (3) sand deposit: on bedrock, (4) sand deposit: stabilized, (5) agricultural and urban area, (6) fluvial system, (7) stony surface, (8) playa/sabkha, and (9) savanna/grassland. Our results indicate that erodibility is linked to the land cover type and has regional variation. An improved land cover map, which explicitly accounts for sediment supply, availability, and transport capacity, may be necessary to represent the highly dynamic nature of dust sources in climate models.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1977-1994
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 25 2014
Externally publishedYes


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