Editor’s Note: The article below was pointed out to us by an agricultural expert who resides in southern Illinois and is quite helpful in suggesting ag science pieces that might be of current interest. Although the article is about nine years old, we believe it may still be of interest to persons with an interest in agriculture and/or environmental issues in Ukraine
<Photo: Ukrainian dust that falls on Labe Meadow in Krkonose Mountains (a wide mountain plateau south of the Sokolik Mt., near Czech-Polish border). Ski tracks show white snow from the previous two days. Credit: Photo: Vaclav Sir, copyright Bulletin of Geosciences
May 8, 2008
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers
Fallow agricultural land and steppe-formation processes are evidently capable of having a much greater effect on global air quality than was previously assumed. This is the conclusion drawn by researchers after examining a dust cloud that formed over parched fields in southern Ukraine and led to extremely high concentrations of particulate matter in Central Europe. On 24 March 2007 the dust cloud spread across Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic to Germany. Peak concentrations of between 200 and 1400 micrograms of PM10 particulates per cubic meter were measured.
By way of comparison: the EU daily average limit is 50 micrograms per cubic meter. Even if such meteorological conditions would appear to occur relatively infrequently, the unexpected scale of the phenomenon showed a need for a better understanding of the processes that lead to the formation and transport of such large quantities of dust. Writing in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, the researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (IfT), Freie Universität Berlin, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and Saxony’s regional office of the environment and geology (LfUG) explain that this is particularly relevant in the context of human-induced desertification and climate change.
Previously, the Sahara had been seen as the main source of dust carried over long distances to Central Europe. The paper published by the research team from Leipzig, Berlin and Dresden is the first documentation of dust transport from the Ukraine.
It was a warm, sunny day in spring and a strong wind was blowing over the parched fields near the Kachowkaer dam on the lower reaches of the Dnipro river. There had been no rain for weeks. The black soil here in the south of the Ukraine is one of the most fertile soils in the world, but it is also very fine and therefore particularly sensitive to erosion. On this day, 23 March 2007, gusts of wind with speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour were whipping up huge quantities of dust in the steppe.
A dust cloud formed that was so big that it was later clearly visible on the weather satellite infrared pictures. At this point, no one living 1500 kilometers to the west suspected what was in store for people in Germany and their eastern neighbours. Thanks to an area of high pressure over Scandinavia and an area of low pressure moving from the Black Sea to Italy, the air mass quickly drifted to Central Europe. Just one day later the air with its cargo of fine dust from the Ukrainian fields had arrived in Germany.
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A further Editor’s Note: In the preview section we noted that this article is several years old. Any reader who finds an article of any age that you might like to share with others, please send the link to us at the e-mail address shown in the left hand column. We will consider using any article, assuming that the science remains valid. The Editor