Variability of the infrared complex refractive index of African mineral dust: experimental estimation and implications for radiative transfer and satellite remote sensing
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
Experimental estimations of the infrared refractive index of African mineral dust have been retrieved from laboratory measurements of particle transmission spectra in the wavelength range 2.5–25 μm. Five dust samples collected at Banizoumbou (Niger) and Tamanrasset (Algeria) during dust events originated from different Western Saharan and Sahelian areas have been investigated. The obtained real (n) and imaginary (<i>k</i>) parts of the refractive index for the different dust cases vary in
... st cases vary in the range 1.1–2.7 and 0.05–1.0, respectively, and appear to be strongly sensitive to the mineralogical composition of the particles, especially in the 8–12 μm and 17–25 μm spectral intervals. Dust absorption is controlled mainly by clays, and, in minor fraction, by quartz and Ca-rich minerals. Size distribution, and the coarse fraction in particular, plays also a role in determining the refractive index. Significant differences are obtained when comparing our results with existing experimental estimations available in the literature, and with the values of the OPAC (Optical Properties of Aerosols and Clouds) database. The different datasets appear comparable in magnitude, with our values of n and <i>k</i> falling in the range of variability of past studies. However, literature data fail in accurately reproducing the spectral signatures of main minerals, in particular clays, and they significantly overestimate the contribution of quartz. We also found that the real and the imaginary parts of the refractive index from part of literature studies do not verify Kramers–Kronig relations, thus resulting theoretically incorrect. The comparison between our results, from Western Africa, and literature data, from different locations in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean, nonetheless, confirms the expected large variability of the infrared refractive index of dust, thus highlighting the necessity for an extended systematic investigation. Aerosol intensive optical properties relevant to radiative transfer (mass extinction efficiency, <i>k</i><sub>ext</sub>, single scattering albedo, ω, and asymmetry factor, <i>g</i>), have been calculated, by using the Mie theory, for the five analysed dust samples, based on the estimated refractive index and measured particle size distribution. The optical properties show a large sample-to-sample variability. This variability is expected to significantly impact satellite retrievals of atmospheric and surface parameters and estimates of the dust radiative forcing.