Dust storms in China: a case study of dust storm variation and dust characteristics

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  • Dust storms in China: a case studyof dust storm variationand dust characteristicsQ. Feng K.N. Endo G.D. Cheng

    Abstract The paper discusses the nature of duststorms, which have inherent environmental im-plications. The physical, chemical and mineralog-ical properties of dust sediments collected inKashi, Taklimakan desert, Kunlun mountains,Donghuang, Lanzhou, Ningxia, Xian, Inner Mon-golia and Beijing from 1990 to 1994 were studied.The texture of most aeolian deposits ranges fromsilty clay to clay loam with median particlediameters (Mds) generally between 5 and 63 lm;similar to the loess of central China and the silt/fine sand in western and northern China. The dustsediments were characterized by a predominanceof SiO2 and Al2O3 and a high amount of K2O withmolar ratios for SiO2/Al2O3 and K2O/SiO2 from5.17 to 8.43 and 0.009 to 0.0368 respectively. Thetriple peak spectrum is the main form of massconcentration in a clear sky. In a dust storm itshows as a single peak, with quartz, feldspar,chlorite, illite, calcite and dolomite beingthe dominant minerals. The physical, chemical and

    mineralogical properties of the present atmosphericdust are similar to those of wind-blown soils inwestern and central China. The results suggest thataeolian deposits and the fine-grained fractions ofdust sediments collected in northern China aremainly soils transported from the arid and semi-aridregions of China and Mongolia by the prevailingwinds.

    Resume Larticle discute de la nature des tempetesde poussie`res, aux consequences importantes surlenvironnement. Les caracteristiques physiques,chimiques et mineralogiques des sediments detempetes de poussie`res preleves a` Kashi, dans ledesert de Taklimakan, les montagnes de Kunlun, a`Donghuang, Lanzhou, Ningxia, Xian, en Mongolieinterieure et a` Pekin de 1990 a` 1994 ont ete etu-diees. La texture de la plupart des depots eoliensvarie des argiles silteuses aux limons argileux. Lacourbe granulometrique presente une valeurmediane generalement comprise entre 5 et 63 lmargileux. Les caracteristiques physiques, chimiquesetrises par une predominance de SiO2 et de Al2O3et une forte teneur en K2O avec des rapports SiO2/Al2O3 de 5,17 a` 8,43 et des rapports K2O/SiO2 de0,009 a` 0,0368. Un spectre a` trois pics estcaracteristique dun ciel clair. Dans une tempetede poussie`res le spectre presente un seul pic avecquartz, feldspath, chlorite, illite, calcite et dolomitecomme mineraux preponderants. Les caracteris-tiques physiques, chimiques et mineralogiques dela poussie`re atmospherique sont semblables a`celles des sols souffles par le vent dans la Chine delouest et du centre. Les resultats de letude sug-ge`rent que les depots eoliens et les fractions finesdes sediments preleves dans la Chine du nord sontprincipalement des sols transportes de regionsarides et semi-arides de Chine et Mongolie par lesvents dominants.

    Keywords Dust storms Aeolian deposits Loess Silt China

    Mots cles Tempetes de poussie`res Depotseoliens Loess Taille de particule Chine

    Received: 9 October 2000 / Accepted: 4 September 2001Published online: 18 December 2001 Springer-Verlag 2001

    Q. Feng (&) G.D. ChengCold and Arid Regions Environmentaland Engineering Research Institute,Chinese Academy of Sciences,260 West Donggang Road,730000 Lanzhou, China

    K.N. EndoDepartment of Geosystem Sciences,College of Humanities and Sciences,Nihon University, 3-25-40, Sakurajosui Setagaya-ku,156-8550 Tokyo, Japan

    Present address: Q. FengDepartment of Geosciences System,College of Humanities and Sciences,Nihon University, 3-25-40, Sakurajosui Setagaya-ku156-8550 Tokyo, Japane-mail: fengqi@chs.nihon-u.ac.jpTel.:+81-03-53768696Fax: +81-03-53768696

    DOI 10.1007/s10064-001-0145-y Bull Eng Geol Env (2002) 61:253261 253

  • Introduction

    In this study a dust storm is defined as having an in-stantaneous wind velocity of >17 m/s and a sky visibilityof

  • storms in China are geographically widespread andinvolve some 40,000 km2. The main distribution directionis west to east, but detailed information suggests that thesouthern Xinjiang basin, Hexi Corridor and HelanMountains are important regions for dust storms (Zhang1984; Oyang 1991).Strong dust storms (instantaneous velocity >20 m/s; skyvisibility
  • with 63% in the afternoon and 18% at night; similar pat-terns have been recorded in other areas. The longest duststorm was in the Hexi Corridor and lasted for 15 h, al-though the average maximum length is 8 h. The spatialand temporal distribution of these events suggests thatthey are associated with regional climatic factors, such astemperature, aridity, etc.

    Dust storms and temperature

    In order to investigate the relationship between dust stormevents and temperature/aridity, a study was made of thevariation in temperature in north China over the last500 years (Zhang 1980). A comparison between the meantemperature index and the frequency of dust storms showsa significant inverse correlation (Fig. 3) with a correlationcoefficient of 0.59 (P

  • storm on 5 May 1993 during the El Nino event of April toDecember of 1993.

    Physical characteristics of dust falls

    Based on the relationship between the particle size of air-borne dust and vertical distribution, the particle size oftropospheric dust at an attitude of 6 to 10 km ranged from1 to 100 lm and was characterised by a predominance ofairborne particles with a diameter of 1 to 50 lm (Table 2).On the other hand, the stratospheric aerosol particles witha diameter of 10 km. Consequently, it was considered that the clayey tosilt fractions of the dust sediments accumulated in Chinaare mainly associated with aerosols that have moved in thetroposphere. The dust sediments also contained varyingamounts of sand fraction (14 to 65%). The dust samplesfrom Kashi and Lanzhou in particular had a wide range ofparticle sizes (Table 2). Most of the coarser fraction inthese dust sediments is associated with soil materials blownby the wind from adjacent environments. Table 2 showsthat the particle size of the main dust sediments rangesfrom 5 to 63 lm. The sample from the Taklimakan area waspoorly sorted with a median particle size (Mds) of 2 to200 lm, while the samples from the eastern areas weremoderately well sorted with an Mds of 0.2 to 100 lm (Zhuand Cheng 1994). The sample from Xian was obtained nearthe loess plateau and had an Mds of between 0.2 and 80 lm,somewhat smaller than the samples of loess from theplateau with an Mds ranging from 3 to 16 lm (Table 2).The grain size of the aerosol particles collected from a325 m tower in Beijing was generally less than 0.4 lm, butduring periods of dust storms the dominant grain size wasbetween 0.6 and 1 lm (Qian et al. 1995) while the Mds ofthe well-sorted aerosol material collected on the flat roof ofthe building (about 10 m high) was 3.9 lm (Table 2). Pye(1987) notes that the further the distance from the source,the smaller the value of the Mds of the soils and aerosols.The results of the study are in agreement with other workon the relationships between the diameter of aerosol par-ticles and the transport distance from their source(Middleton et al. 1986; Prospero et al. 1987). However, theparticle size distribution (Mds) and soil texture of the air

    fall material may be influenced by the longitude, latitudeand altitude of the sampling site and probably the seasonand meteorological conditions in China, as discussedbelow.

    Chemical characteristics of dust

    Table 3 presents the chemical components of the dust fallsstudied. As can be seen in the table, the material is char-acterised by a predominance of SiO2 and Al2O3. The SiO2/Al2O3 molar ratios of the dust and loess were 5.17 to 8.43and 6.3 to 9.3 respectively (Table 3). The amount of K2O inthe dust was low (0.57 to 2.07%), being very similar to thatof the loess (1.43 to 3.09%). As seen from Table 3, the K2O/SiO2 molar (0.009 to 0.0368) was also very close to that ofthe loess and aeolian soils of China (0.013 to 0.04). Theseresults suggest that the aerosols and dust collected inChina are predominantly composed of fine soil particlestransported from the loess plateau, the Gobi desert andtheir surrounds.Based on the characteristics of eight chemical componentsof dust in China, two types can be identified. The Xiandust was characterised by a high level of loss on ignitionand CaO, smaller proportions of K2O and greater amountsof Na2O compared with the Beijing type which has lowerlevels of loss on ignition and CaO (Table 3).The suspended matter in the air is composed of two parts:natural material including volcanic particles, salt from thesea and aeolian particles; and material originating fromindustry. The value of the relative concentration of acertain element X to ferrum metal (EFx) is a useful indexfor an analysis of the sources of suspended matter:

    EFxX=Feair=X=Fecrust 1where Fe is the ferrum metal; [(X/Fe) air] represents therelative concentration of certain elements (X) to Fe in theair; and [(X/Fe) crust] represents the relative concentra-tion of certain elements (X) to Fe in the crust. The criticalconcentration of certain elements (X) to Fe in the crust hasbeen taken from Liu (1985).The values of EFx for some areas of China are given inTable 4. This shows that the variations in the EFx of most

    Table 2Particle size distributions for dust falls in China in 1994. Mds Median particle diameters; So sorting coefficient of sample; Sk standard deviation;Kur kurtosis

    Location Variations in Mds Mean Mds So Sk Kur(lm) (lm)

    Kashi 0.2200 23.21 1.27 0.756 3.802Kunlun mountains 180 23.13 1.17 1.319 5.557Taklimakan desert (Luntai) 2200 93.54 1.43 0.117 2.316Donghuang 250 17.49 0.52 2.398 7.963Lanzhou 0.3100 17.12 1.55 0.397 3.960Xian 0.280 20.00 0.85 0.966 4.480Ningxia (Yinchuan) 0.480 20.73 1.81 0.291 1.898Inner Mongolia (Xilin Hot) 0.380 10.15 1.08 1.031 2.878Beijing 0.250 3.97 0.34 1.176 8.693

    Dust storms in China

    Bull Eng Geol Env (2002) 61:253261 257

  • elements in Kashi, the Kunlun mountains, Tarim basin andDonghuang are the same while the concentration of most ofthe elements in the air is similar to their concentration inthe crust and generally close to 1. The high EFx value of Cais the result of a locally high proportion of Ca in the topsoil,while the elevated EFx value for Pb in Donghuang isprobably associated with the air pollution in an area wheretourism results in a greater population density. Generally,the factor of EFx in the dust sediments of most of the desertareas was lower than 10 compared with 1 in the other re-gions. The results show that the main elements suspendedin the air are fine sands and clays with a similar distributionto that of the soils found in the desert areas (Table 4); e.g. aCu of 23.76 in Lanzhou, 18.45 in Xian, 24.00 in InnerMongolia and 25.13 in Beijing; a Zn of 54.38 in Lanzhou,24.12 in Ningxia, 63.42 in Inner Mongolia and 79.34 inBeijing; and a Pb of 42.13 in Lanzhou, 13.74 in Xian, 35.11in Inner Mongolia and 78.12 in Beijing. The above highvalues of EFx in suspension may be the result of an in-creased proportion of clay matter, possibly associated withincreased transportation distances and/or regional pollu-tion (industrial particles) which could account for the highEFx value of Cu, Zn and Pb.

    Mineralogical characteristicsof dust

    The mineralogical content of the dust can represent thesurrounding source environment or the aeolian condi-tions. In the desert region, the X-ray diffractogramsindicated a predominance of quartz, feldspar, chlorite, il-lite, calcite, dolomite, gypsum and zeolite, with some 15 to30% organic (spore and pollen) and non-organic matter(Table 5). The mineral content of the dust was similar; thecoarse dust consisting of quartz, feldspar and carboniccarbonate while the fine dust was characterised by micaand clay minerals (Table 5). The light minerals content ofthe fall material was high, accounting for 90% of the totalcompared with a heavy mineral content of only 5% in thefluvial and aeolian sediments.In western China (in the Tarim basin, for example), theunstable mineral content of the dust reached 45% and wascharacterised by hornblende, black mica and augite, whilethe more stable 55% was dominantly epidote, zoisite,muscovite and garnet with trace minerals includingtremolite and actinolite. The light minerals were generally

    Table 4Elements of dust falls (mg/kg) in north China in 1994

    Location Cu Zn Pb Ni Co Cr Mn Fe Ti Ca Mg K Na

    Kashi 0.80 1.77 2.68 0.60 0.59 0.43 1.12 1.00 1.33 4.95 1.54 1.25 1.12Kunlun

    mountains1.23 1.87 2.98 0.32 0.43 0.53 1.25 1.54 1.65 5.89 1.32 1.05 1.02


    0.56 1.89 3.67 0.56 0.78 0.33 1.12 12.00 1.78 5.65 1.65 1.25 1.74

    Donghuang 0.73 1.93 17.00 0.67 0.6 0.70 1.10 11.00 1.36 4.89 1.91 1.21 0.87Lanzhou 23.76 54.38 42.13 0.79 0.75 1.10 0.84 1.00 0.77 2.19 0.71 0.59 0.37Xian 18.45 2.21 13.74 0.48 0.80 1.70 1.02 1.00 1.52 3.03 1.10 1.25 0.94Ningxia

    (Yinchuan)8.77 24.12 9.00 0.76 0.78 0.87 0.94 1.00 1.23 3.58 1.59 0.93 1.19


    (Xilin Hot)

    24.00 63.42 35.11 1.00 0.80 0.80 1.00 1.00 1.39 2.32 1.00 1.23 0.90

    Beijing 25.13 79.34 78.12 2.13 0.78 0.89 1.10 1.20 1.45 2.45 1.00 1.42 0.78

    Table 3Chemical composition and physical properties of dust falls in China in 1994. LOI Loss on ignition

    Locations LOI SiO2 Al2O3 Fe2O3 TiO2 MnO CaO MgO Na2O K2O P2O5 SiO2/Al2O3 K2O/SiO2(%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)

    Kashi 56.2 8.27 3.64 0.53 0.07 10.46 2.88 2.76 2.07 0.17 6.79 0.0368Kunlun

    mountains 61.3 8.18 4.90 0.47 0.07 9.8 2.78 2.75 1.34 0.20 7.49 0.0219

    Taklimakandesert (Luntai)

    77.21 10.17 2.20 0.38 0.05 2.65 2.87 12.52 1.73 0.22 7.59 0.0367

    Donghuang 3.77 75.77 9.21 2.60 0.12 0.04 2.56 1.17 2.07 1.55 0.07 8.22 0.0205Lanzhou 59.3 11.47 4.04 0.60 5.96 1.32 2.17 1.20 0.20 5.17 0.0203Xian 13.7 62.51 6.41 4.9 0.7 0.08 6.27 2.25 1.70 1.17 0.20 8.43 0.0187Ningxia

    (Yinchuan)4.91 66.79 9.07 5.48 0.46 0.09 1.64 1.62 2.26 1.21 0.11 7.36 0.0153

    InnerMongolia(Xilin Hot)

    71.23 11.15 4.83 0.70 5.36 1.14 2.1 0.77 0.10 6.39 0.0109

    Beijing 2.68 63.5 10.41 5.63 0.58 0.15 0.73 1.54 2.53 0.57 0.07 6.10 0.009

    Q. Feng et al.

    258 Bull Eng Geol Env (2002) 61:253261

  • quartz, feldspar and calcite while the carbonic carbonatecontent in the falls sediment may reach 5 to 15%.In eastern China, the unstable mineral content of the dustand surface sand is only 30% lower than in westernChina while the opaque metal mineral content in theeastern areas is some 1 to 2 times that in the western areas.The muscovite and hornblende contents in the fall sedi-ments are lower than in western China, but the epidotecontent is higher.A semi-quantitative estimate of the relative amount of thedominant clay minerals based on the intensity of theircharacteristic reflections is shown in Table 5. The majorclay minerals of the dust sediments consisted of quartz,feldspar, chlorite, illite, calcite, dolomite, diorite and zeo-lite. However, there were differences in their clay mineralcomposition. In addition to the quartz content, the Kashi,Donghuang, Ningxia and Beijing dust contained largeamounts of illite whi...


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