Articles | Volume 7, issue 5
Research article
24 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 24 Sep 2013

High-resolution provenance of desert dust deposited on Mt. Elbrus, Caucasus in 2009–2012 using snow pit and firn core records

S. Kutuzov, M. Shahgedanova, V. Mikhalenko, P. Ginot, I. Lavrentiev, and S. Kemp

Abstract. The first record of dust deposition events on Mt. Elbrus, Caucasus Mountains derived from a snow pit and a shallow firn core is presented for the 2009–2012 period. A combination of isotopic analysis, SEVIRI red-green-blue composite imagery, MODIS atmospheric optical depth fields derived using the Deep Blue algorithm, air mass trajectories derived using the HYSPLIT model and analyses of meteorological data enabled identification of dust source regions with high temporal (hours) and spatial (ca. 20–100 km) resolution. Seventeen dust deposition events were detected; fourteen occurred in March–June, one in February and two in October. Four events originated in the Sahara, predominantly in northeastern Libya and eastern Algeria. Thirteen events originated in the Middle East, in the Syrian Desert and northern Mesopotamia, from a mixture of natural and anthropogenic sources. Dust transportation from Sahara was associated with vigorous Saharan depressions, strong surface winds in the source region and mid-tropospheric southwesterly flow with daily winds speeds of 20–30 m s−1 at 700 hPa level. Although these events were less frequent than those originating in the Middle East, they resulted in higher dust concentrations in snow. Dust transportation from the Middle East was associated with weaker depressions forming over the source region, high pressure centred over or extending towards the Caspian Sea and a weaker southerly or southeasterly flow towards the Caucasus Mountains with daily wind speeds of 12–18 m s−1 at 700 hPa level. Higher concentrations of nitrates and ammonium characterised dust from the Middle East deposited on Mt. Elbrus in 2009 indicating contribution of anthropogenic sources. The modal values of particle size distributions ranged between 1.98 μm and 4.16 μm. Most samples were characterised by modal values of 2.0–2.8 μm with an average of 2.6 μm and there was no significant difference between dust from the Sahara and the Middle East.