Optical characteristics of desert dust over the East Mediterranean during summer: a case study
Abstract. High aerosol optical depth (AOD) values, larger than 0.6, are systematically observed in the Ultraviolet (UV) region both by sunphotometers and lidar systems over Greece during summertime. To study in more detail the characteristics and the origin of these high AOD values, a campaign took place in Greece in the frame of the PHOENICS (Particles of Human Origin Extinguishing Natural solar radiation In Climate Systems) and EARLINET (European Aerosol Lidar Network) projects during August–September of 2003, which included simultaneous sunphotometric and lidar measurements at three sites covering the north-south axis of Greece: Thessaloniki, Athens and Finokalia, Crete. Several events with high AOD values have been observed over the measuring sites during the campaign period, many of them corresponding to Saharan dust. In this paper we focused on the event of 30 and 31 August 2003, when a dust layer in the height range of 2000-5000 m, progressively affected all three stations. This layer showed a complex behavior concerning its spatial evolution and allowed us to study the changes in the optical properties of the desert dust particles along their transport due to aging and mixing with other types of aerosol. The extinction-to-backscatter ratio determined on the 30 August 2003 at Thessaloniki was approximately 50 sr, characteristic for rather spherical mineral particles, and the measured color index of 0.4 was within the typical range of values for desert dust. Mixing of the desert dust with other sources of aerosols resulted the next day in overall smaller and less absorbing population of particles with a lidar ratio of 20 sr. Mixing of polluted air-masses originating from Northern Greece and Crete and Saharan dust result in very high aerosol backscatter values reaching 7 Mm-1 sr-1 over Finokalia. The Saharan dust observed over Athens followed a different spatial evolution and was not mixed with the boundary layer aerosols mainly originating from local pollution.