Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Research article
24 Jan 2017
Research article |  | 24 Jan 2017

Dust opacities inside the dust devil column in the Taklimakan Desert

Zhaopeng Luan, Yongxiang Han, Tianliang Zhao, Feng Liu, Chong Liu, Mark J. Rood, Xinghua Yang, Qing He, and Huichao Lu

Abstract. The distribution of dust aerosols in dust devils (DDs) is quantitatively characterized here based on a field observation. We applied the digital optical method (DOM) with digital still cameras to quantify the opacity of the DDs in the Taklimakan Desert, China. This study presents the following unique and important results: (1) the distinct horizontal distributions of opacity proved the existence of DDs' eye, similarly to the eye of tropical cyclone; (2) the opacity of the DDs decreases with increasing height; however, the dust aerosols do appear to settle out, and the relatively calm eye leads to a minimum in dust opacity at the eye; (3) the horizontal distribution of opacity is quasi-symmetric with a bimodal across the eye of the DDs, which could be resulted from the ambient air conditions; and (4) a new method is developed for characterizing the three-dimensional structure of DDs based on the observed two-dimensional opacity provided by DOM. This study not only proposes a highly reliable, low-cost and efficient methodology to capture the optical structure of DDs, but it could also provide the information on estimation of dust emissions driven by DDs.