University of Hertfordshire

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Observations of Saharan dust layer electrification

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • K.A. Nicoll
  • R.G. Harrison
  • Z. Ulanowski
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Original languageEnglish
Article number014001
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Electrification of atmospheric dust influences the coagulation, wet removal and fall speeds of dust particles. Alignment of dust particles can also occur in fair weather atmospheric electrical conditions if the particles are charged. However, very few electrical measurements made in elevated dust layers exist. Balloon-borne charge and particle instrumentation have been used to investigate the electrical properties of elevated Saharan dust layers. Soundings from the Cape Verde Islands, which experience frequent Saharan dust outbreaks, intercepted several dust layers. Two balloon soundings during summer 2009 detected dust particles in layers up to 4 km altitude. Simultaneous electrical measurements showed charge inside the dust layers, with a maximum measured charge density of 25 pC m(-3), sufficient to influence wet removal processes.


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