Influence of the 23 October 2002 dust storm on the air quality of four Australian cities
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Widespread drought and record maximum temperatures in eastern Australia produced a large dust storm on 23 October, 2002 which traversed a large proportion of eastern Australia and engulfed communities along a 2000 km stretch of coastline from south of Sydney (NSW) to north of Mackay (Queensland). This event provided an opportunity for a study of the impacts of rural dust upon the air quality of four Australian cities. A simple model is used to predict dust concentrations, dust deposition rates and particle size characteristics of the airborne dust in the cities. The total dust load of the plume was 3.35 to 4.85 million tones, and assuming a (conservative) plume height of 1500 m, 62-90% of this dust load was deposited in-transit to the coast. It is conservatively estimated that 3.5, 12.0, 2.1 and 1.7 kilotonnes of dust were deposited during the event in Sydney, Brisbane, Gladstone and Mackay, respectively. In the South East Queensland region, this deposition is equivalent to 40% of the total annual TSP emissions for the region. The event increased TSP, PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations and reduced the visibility beyond the health and amenity guidelines in the four cities. For example, the 24-h average PM10 concentrations in Brisbane and Mackay, were 161 and 475 姠m-3 respectively, compared with the Australian national ambient air quality standard of 50 姠m-3. The 24-h average PM2.5 concentration in Brisbane was 42 姠m-3, compared with the national advisory standard of 25 姠m-3. These rural dusts significantly increased PM10/TSP ratios and decreased PM2.5/PM10 ratios, indicating that most of the particles were between PM2.5 and PM10.
Water, Air and Soil Pollution: an international journal of environmental pollution