A comprehensive observational network is fundamental to any mineral dust forecasting and early warning system for real-time monitoring, validation and verification of numerical prediction models and eventual data assimilation schemes. The main data sources are in-situ measurements, aerosol optical depth and derived products retrieved from ground-based radiometer measurements and satellite products.
In-situ measurements of particulate matter concentration and size distribution are common in Europe, but very scarce, intermittent and rarely near-real-time available close of the main source regions. Indirect, qualitative, real-time information can be found in weather reports produced in synoptic stations and airfields.
Ground-based aerosol remote sensing does not provide global coverage; however, its numerous spectral measurements of solar radiation are well suited to reliably and continuously derive aerosol optical properties. AERONET (AErosol Robotic NETwork) is a federation of ground-based remote sensing aerosol networks. It provides observations of spectral aerosol optical depth and inversion products in geographically diverse aerosol regimes. Discrimination of aerosol types can be done from the aerosol optical depth and its spectral variations.
The SEVIRI instrument onboard the MSG satellites allows generation of RGB products that offer a qualitative detection of dust clouds with a good spatial and time resolution and an excellent and permanent coverage of the SDS-WAS RC geographical domain. These products are very important in dust monitoring, nowcasting and model verification. Furthermore, efforts of different teams aimed to develop a quantitative product for the estimation of the aerosol total-column optical depth are yielding promising results. On the other hand, products derived from instruments such as MODIS, SeaWifs, OMI, AVHRR or CALIPSO onboard polar satellites and, therefore, with a lower time resolution and without permanent coverage, may help to estimate horizontal and vertical distribution, species differentiation, size distribution and optical properties of aerosols.
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