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Aerosol characteristics over different regions of southern Africa : using sunphotometer and satellite measurements.

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Aerosols and cloud play a major role in understanding and interpreting the varying earth’s energy budget. It is necessary to characterize these atmospheric particles by their sizes, chemical composition, water content etc. Aerosols can both cause heating and cooling depending on what they are made of; dust will generally tend to scatter leading to cooling effect while some species of black carbon will absorb sunlight thereby causing a heating effect. In order to assess their impact on global climate, a multiple measurement approach is necessary and specifically, we need long and short term ground-based measurements in clean and polluted environment and long term satellite measurements. In this thesis, we have used aerosol measurements from CIMEL Sunphotometer (part of the world-wide network; Aerosol Robotic Network: AERONET) over, Pretoria (25.75º S, 28.28º E) and Skukuza (24.9º S, 31.5º E) in South Africa, and satellite data from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR). Pretoria is situated in industrial region with adequate influence of urban/industrial aerosols while Skukuza is an agricultural based region with frequent burning of agricultural waste to clear the harvest during the late winter, spring and summer seasons. Thus, the study over industrial and agricultural regions explores more understanding about the regional radiative forcing in relation to aerosol loading and meteorology. MODIS satellite data was utilized for addressing long term trend in aerosol loading and cloud interaction studies over different locations of South Africa where no ground based sunphotometer data are available. Using six months sunphotometer data (July–December 2012), aerosol characteristics over Gorongosa were studied with particular attention to how aerosol loading evolves during the biomass burning season (spring) including pre- and post-months. The results revealed that the monthly mean aerosol optical depth (AOD₅₀₀) was at maximum in September and minimum in November. The study also investigated biomass burning and forest fire occurrences in Mozambique using MODIS active fire data. Using a year sunphotometer data (January – December 2012) obtained from Pretoria’s (CSIR_DPPS) AERONET site, aerosol was characterized by its optical, microphysical and radiative properties. The study explored meteorological effects on aerosol loading and aerosol direct radiative forcing over Pretoria. Maximum value of aerosol optical depth (AOD₅₀₀) was found during February (summer) and August (winter) while the atmospheric forcing was found to be independent of seasonal variation in AOD. Besides, AOD, Angstrom exponent (AE; α440-870), columnar water vapor (CWV), volume size distribution (VSD), single scattering albedo (SSA) and aerosol radiative forcing (ARF) were computed and their variations with their climatic implications were studied. Using the ground-based instrument of AERONET at Skukuza, we performed validation of MISR and MODIS (Terra and Aqua) level 3 AOD products using the data retrieved for the year 2010. We also carried out regression analysis on these satellite products using 10 years of dataset (2004-2013) to evaluate their performance at a hinterland and coastland stations with two distinct environments in SA. The validation showed that MISR was better correlated with sunphotometer having a coefficient of determination (R²=0.94), Aqua MODIS (R²=0.77) and Terra MODIS (R²=0.68). The long term regression analysis at the two selected locations showed MODIS products underestimating MISR. At the hinterland, MISR showed an increasing trend while MODIS products showed a decreasing trend over the study period but at the coastland MISR and Terra MODIS showed a negative trend while Aqua MODIS showed a positive trend. When the two MODIS products were compared, they were better correlated at the coastland (R²=0.66) than hinterland (R²=0.59) and when compared based on seasonal variation, they were better correlated in the winter season in both locations than any other season. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) Ultra-Violet Aerosol Index (UVAI) which was used to monitor the absorption aerosol index showed an increasing trend over the two locations with 0.0089/yr hinterland and 0.0022/yr at coastland. In the present thesis, we also used data obtained from the Terra satellite onboard of the MODIS to investigate the spatial and temporal relationship between AOD and cloud parameters namely, water vapor (WV), cloud optical depth (COD), cloud fraction (CF), cloud top pressure (CTP) and cloud top temperature (CTT) based on 5 years (January 2008 -December 2012) of dataset over six locations in South Africa. AOD has high values during spring (September to November) but low values in winter (June to August) in all locations. In terms of temporal variation AOD was lowest at Bloemfontein 0.06±0.04 followed by Cape Town 0.08±0.02, then Potchefstroom 0.09±0.05, Pretoria and Skukuza had 0.11±0.05 each and Durban 0.13±0.05. The mean AE values for each location show a general prevalence of fine particles for most parts of the year. Our analysis of AOD and WV showed both quantities only co-vary at the beginning of the year but later in the year they tend to have opposite trend over all the locations. AOD and CF showed negative correlation for most of the locations while AOD and COD were positive over three of the locations. AOD and CTT, CTP showed similar variations in almost all the locations. The co-variation of CTT and CTP may be due to large scale meteorological variation.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2015.


Atmospheric aerosols--South Africa., Aerosols., Atmospheric chemistry--South Africa., Theses--Chemistry., Aerosol Robotic Network : AERONET., CIMEL Sunphotometer., Moderate Resolution Imgaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Multiangle Imgaging Spectroradiometer (MISR)