The electrical activity of Saharan dust as perceived from surface electric field observations.

We report on the electric field variations during Saharan dust advection over two atmospheric remote stations in Greece, using synergistic observations of the vertical atmospheric electric field strength (Ez) at ground level and the lidar-derived particle backscatter coefficient profiles. Both parameters were monitored for the first time with the simultaneous deployment of a ground-based field mill electrometer and a multi-wavelength polarization lidar. The field mill time series are processed to extract the diurnal variations of the global electric circuit and remove fast field perturbations due to peak lightning activity. In order to identify the influence of the elevated dust layers on the ground Ez, we extract a localized reference electric field from the time series that reflects the local fair-weather activity. Then, we compare it with the reconstructed daily average behaviour of the electric field and the Saharan dust layers' evolution, as depicted by the lidar. The observed enhancement of the vertical electric field (up to ∼100 V m−1), for detached pure dust layers, suggests the presence of in-layer electric charges. Although higher dust loads are expected to result in such an electric field enhancement, episodic cases that reduce the electric field are also observed (up to ∼60 V m−1). To quantitatively approach our results, we examine the dependency of Ez against theoretical assumptions for the distribution of separated charges within the electrified dust layer. Electrically neutral dust is approximated by atmospheric conductivity reduction, while charge separation areas within electrically active dust layers are approximated as finite-extent cylinders. This physical approximation constitutes a more realistic description of the distribution of charges, as opposed to infinite-extent geometries, and allows for analytical solutions of the electric field strength so that observed variations during the monitored dust outbreaks can be explained.


Publication status:
Authors: Daskalopoulou, V., Mallios, S.A., Ulanowski, Z. ORCIDORCID record for Z. Ulanowski, Hloupis, G., Gialitaki, A., Tsikoudi, I., Tassis, K., Amiridis, V.

On this site: Joseph Ulanowski
25 January, 2021
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics / 21
23pp / 927-949
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