When a Dust Storm Is Not a Dust Storm: Reliability of Dust Records From the Storm Events Database and Implications for Geohealth Applications

Date

2023

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Abstract

Windblown dust impacts human health, air quality, and climate. The National Weather Service Storm Events Database (SED) is a widely used dataset of significant or unusual weather, including dust storms (DS), and resulting deaths, injuries, and material losses in the USA. The SED is frequently used by medical, social, and atmospheric scientists. However, it is uncertain whether this dataset reliably represents spatial and temporal variations and trends of DS. Analyzing the SED from 2000 to 2020 identified 1,167 DS reports; removing reports of the same event from multiple locations left 647 DS in 21 USA states. The number of DS ranged from 12 in 2008 to 53 in 2018, with no strong interannual trends detected (R2 was 0.3). By examining the DS events reported in the SED based on meteorological observations including wind speed, visibility, and weather codes, we determined that the SED was not only missing many DS (visibility <1 km), but also included many blowing dust (BLDU) events. 49.9% of 491 reported DS events in SED had visibility >1 km and were incorrectly reported as DS. Underrepresentation of DS and inclusion of BLDU may be partially due to the diverse sources contributing to the SED and a lack of verification of the reports and their consistency. Although the SED is an extremely useful and valuable database of impactful weather, including DS, the issues found in this study warrant caution in use of this dataset for many geohealth applications.

Description

© 2022 The Authors. GeoHealth published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Geophysical Union. cc-by

Keywords

blowing dust events, dust storm, Storm Events Database, USA

Citation

Ardon-Dryer, K., Gill, T.E., & Tong, D.Q.. 2023. When a Dust Storm Is Not a Dust Storm: Reliability of Dust Records From the Storm Events Database and Implications for Geohealth Applications. GeoHealth, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1029/2022GH000699

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