Dust detectors in the Aral Sea basin

The Aral Sea repeatedly appeared and disappeared over the last century but has now steadily decreased as the dust increased, resulting in desertification. There is still water in the north of the Aral Sea but the ‘desert’ lakebed in the middle has more dust and sandstorms than anywhere else in the world.

Researchers used two types of remote sensing to understand the quantity and frequency of dust and other aerosols in the region:

  • Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) Satellite Data which is an environment satellite launched to investigate cloud and aerosol effects on Earth’s radiation. They analysed CALIPSO level 2:4 nighttime aerosol layer data between 2007 – 2021 over the Aral Sea.
  • Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) computing Model which is used in atmospheric transport, pollutants, hazardous materials simulations. They analysed data for 3 squsequnt days after a dust storm began and used the trajectory frequency analysis to calculate and predict potential long-range transport aerosols that are often influenced by dust storms from the dry lakebed.

They found seasonal variations in all the different types of aerosols except polluted dust which occurred all year round and more often than other dust – 84%, 78%, 66%, and 62% of all the aerosols. The polluted dust and other dust could travel between 1km and 5km.

The long-range transport in different directions could cover a large area, mainly impacting Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and eastern parts of Iran, but impacting areas as far as the Caucasus region; parts of China, Mongolia and Russia; and especially the Tianshan Mountains.

Wu N et al., (2022)

Wu N, Ge Y, Abuduwaili J, Issanova G, Saparov G. Insights into Variations and Potential Long-Range Transport of Atmospheric Aerosols from the Aral Sea Basin in Central Asia. Remote Sensing. 2022; 14(13):3201.https://doi.org/10.3390/rs14133201

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