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Research that models nearly 60 years of air quality in West Africa could lend insights into better forecasting a hazard that affects more than 350 million people in the region, according to an international team of researchers.
As part of a larger effort to understand air quality, Gregory Jenkins, Penn State, modeled meteorological events occurring during the winter months to better understand the variables contributing to long-term dust events, which are a public health hazard. Understanding this could improve dust forecasting.
Concentrations - Intervals - Model - Factors - Region
Analyzing dust concentrations at 12-hour intervals, the model revealed factors driving the region's dust events.
"It looks like dust is not just a constant variable over West Africa," Jenkins said. "There are periods and times when there is definitely more dust. Over the last 15 years, the model suggests dust concentrations have gone down. What's forcing the dust events? It looks like the North-Atlantic oscillation (NAO) is a big player."
Jenkins - NAO - Factor - Dust - Levels
Jenkins said the NAO is one factor driving dust levels, but the model suggests other factors are at play. More research will shed light on these factors, he added.
The model targeted the Bodele Depression, which is the world's largest dust source, as well as lesser, yet significant, sources in other parts of the Sahara Desert. The World Health Organization links airborne dust to increased cases of cancer, asthma and other diseases.
Research - GeoHealth - Lot - Variation - Events
The research, published in GeoHealth, found a lot of variation in dust events and some troubling findings.
In Kano State, Nigeria, home to 9.4 million people, 42 of the 90 days of the 1990 season had unhealthy air quality by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. In 1983, 35 days were unhealthy and 10 days in 2012. Similarly, in Senegal's capital of Dakar, where more than 1 million people live, 52 of the 90 days of the 1990 season had unhealthy air quality. In 1983,...
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