Research Article

Dust and Biological Aerosols from the Sahara and Asia Influence Precipitation in the Western U.S.

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Science  28 Feb 2013:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227279

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Winter storms in California's Sierra Nevada increase seasonal snowpack and provide critical water resources for the state. Thus, the mechanisms influencing precipitation in this region have been the subject of research for decades. Previous studies suggest Asian dust enhances cloud ice and precipitation (1), while few studies consider biological aerosols as an important global source of ice nuclei (IN). Here, we show that dust and biological aerosols transported from as far as the Sahara were present in glaciated high-altitude clouds coincident with elevated IN concentrations and ice-induced precipitation. This study presents the first direct cloud and precipitation measurements showing that Saharan and Asian dust and biological aerosols likely serve as IN and play an important role in orographic precipitation processes over the western United States.

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