05 Sep 2023
 | 05 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Dust storms from the Taklamakan Desert significantly darken snow surface on surrounding mountains

Yuxuan Xing, Yang Chen, Shirui Yan, Tenglong Shi, Xiaoyi Cao, Xiaoying Niu, Dongyou Wu, Jiecan Cui, Xin Wang, and Wei Pu

Abstract. The Taklamakan Desert (TD) is a major source of mineral dust emissions into the atmosphere. These dust particles have the ability to darken the surface of snow on the surrounding high mountains after deposition, significantly impacting the regional radiation balance. However, previous field measurements have been unable to capture the effects of severe dust storms accurately, and their representation on regional scales has been inadequate. In this study, we propose a modified remote-sensing approach that combines data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite and simulations from the Snow, Ice, and Aerosol Radiative (SNICAR) model. This approach allows us to detect and analyze the substantial snow darkening resulting from dust storm deposition. We focus on three typical dust events originating from the Taklamakan Desert and observe significant snow darkening over an area of >2100, >600, and >630 km2 in the Tien Shan, Kunlun, and Qilian Mountains, respectively. Our findings reveal that the impact of dust storms extends beyond the local high mountains, reaching mountains located approximately 1000 km away from the source. Furthermore, we observe that dust storms not only darken the snowpack during the spring but also in the summer and autumn seasons, leading to increased absorption of solar radiation. Specifically, the snow albedo reduction (radiative forcing) triggered by severe dust depositions is up to 0.028–0.079 (11–31.5 W m−2), 0.088–0.136 (31–49 W m−2), and 0.092–0.153 (22–38 W m−2) across the Tien Shan, Kunlun, and Qilian Mountains, respectively. This further contributes to the aging of the snow, as evidenced by the growth of snow grain size. Comparatively, the impact of persistent but relatively slow dust deposition over several months during non-event periods is significantly lower than that of individual dust event. This highlights the necessity of giving more attention to the influence of extreme events on the regional radiation balance. Through this study, we gain a deeper understanding of how a single dust event can affect the extensive snowpack and demonstrates the potential of employing satellite remote-sensing to monitor large-scale snow darkening.

Yuxuan Xing et al.

Status: open (until 17 Oct 2023)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1443', Anonymous Referee #1, 27 Sep 2023 reply

Yuxuan Xing et al.


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Short summary
A study investigated the impact of dust storms from the Taklamakan Desert on surrounding high mountains and regional radiation balance. Using satellite data and simulations, researchers found that dust storms significantly darken the snow surface in the Tien Shan, Kunlun, and Qilian Mountains, reaching mountains up to 1000 km away. This darkening occurs not only in spring but also during summer and autumn, leading to increased absorption of solar radiation.