An extensive dust storm impact on air quality on 22 November 2018 in Sydney, Australia, using satellite remote sensing and ground data
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Recurrent dust storms represent a significant concern in Australia because of their related hazards and damages since particulate matter (PM) has harmful impacts on the environmental, health and economic sectors. The particulate matter may be released from natural sources and human activities. The major part of natural particulate matter is emitted into the air by wind erosion processes from desert and semi-desert areas at the world scale. A huge dust storm crossed over several areas of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, including the Sydney region on 21–22 November 2018 and decreased the horizontal visibility to less than 1 km for 22 h. This study examined the synoptic weather conditions, and assessed the air quality and identified the source and transport trajectory of the dust storm over Sydney using ground and satellite remote sensing data. PM10 (< 10 μm) concentrations were obtained from selected air quality monitoring sites operated by the Environmental Protection Agency in NSW. The highest hourly concentration of PM10 (578.7 μg/m3) was recorded at Singleton in the Hunter Valley, while concentrations in Sydney ranged from 480 to 385 μg/m3, well above the standard air quality level in Australia (50 μg/m3 per 24 h). The HYSPLIT back trajectories of air parcels suggest that the potential sources of the dust episode originated from the Lake Eyre Basin and northeast South Australia, the Mundi Mundi plains west of Broken Hill, Cobar and the grazing lands and the red sandplains in northwestern NSW. It then travelled towards the east coast. These long-range airflows transported suspended dust particles, raising air quality to hazardous levels (elevated PM10 levels) over most areas of NSW. The results from the HYSPLIT model for dust movement are confirmed by MODIS satellite images. Many areas of NSW experienced this intense dust storm due to northwest wind generated by the low-pressure systems and cold fronts over South Australia and many parts of western NSW as it moved eastward.
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NSW Office of Environment and Heritage