The origin of high particulate concentrations over the United Kingdom, March 2000

D. B. Ryall*, R. G. Derwent, A. J. Manning, A. L. Redington, J. Corden, W. Millington, P. G. Simmonds, S. O'Doherty, N. Carslaw, G. W. Fuller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


An episode of exceptionally high PM10 and PM2.5 levels was observed during the night of the 2-3 March 2000 throughout England and Wales. The weather was characterised by strong westerly winds and widespread rainfall associated with a low pressure system to the north of Scotland, conditions usually associated with relatively clean, unpolluted air. Possible sources included volcanic ash from an eruption on 26 February 2000 in Iceland, or dust from large sandstorms over the Sahara. A combination of atmospheric transport modelling using the Lagrangian dispersion model NAME, an analyses of satellite imagery and observational data from Mace Head has shown that the most likely origin of the episode was long range transport of dust from the Sahara region of North Africa. Further modelling studies have revealed a number of previously unidentified dust episodes, and indicate that transport of dust from the Sahara can occur several times a year. Dust episodes are of interest for a number of reasons, particulate levels can be elevated over a wide area and in some instances can significantly exceeded current air quality standards. If a natural source is identified over which there can be no control, there are implications for the setting of air quality standards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1363-1378
Number of pages16
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2002


  • Air quality standards
  • Long range transport
  • PM
  • Saharan dust


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