The observed decline of spring dust storms in Northeast Asia since the 1950s has been attributed to surface wind stilling. However, spring vegetation growth could also restrain dust storms through accumulating above ground biomass and increasing surface roughness. To investigate the impacts of vegetation spring growth on dust storms, we examine the relationships between recorded spring dust storm outbreaks and satellite-derived vegetation green-up date in Inner Mongolia, Northern China from 1982 to 2008. We find a significant dampening effect of advanced vegetation growth on spring dust storms (r = 0.49, p = 0.01), with a one-day earlier green-up date corresponding to a decrease in annual spring dust storm outbreaks by 3%. Moreover, the higher correlation (r = 0.55, p < 0.01) between green-up date and dust storm outbreak ratio (the ratio of dust storm outbreaks to times of strong wind events) indicates that such effect is independent of changes in surface wind. Spatially, a negative correlation is detected between areas with advanced green-up dates and regional annual spring dust storms (r = −0.49, p = 0.01). This new insight is valuable for understanding dust storms dynamics under the changing climate. Our findings suggest that dust storms in Inner Mongolia will be further mitigated by the projected earlier vegetation green-up in the warming world.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/xiaoyang-zhang/4/