Balloon-borne charge measurements within a Saharan dust layer

K.A. Nicoll, Z. Ulanowski, R.G. Harrison, P.H. Kaye

Dust is commonly lofted from desert regions through erosion and meteorological processes, leading to substantial quantities of dust carried in the local atmospheric circulation. Dust transport is not unique to Earth, as there is evidence for substantial dust clouds elsewhere in the solar system, notably Mars. Surface measurements of a dust cloud passing over an astronomical polarimeter have shown evidence of alignment of the constituent particles (Ulanowski et al, 2007). This is a surprising result, as alignment has not been assumed in conventional models of the atmospheric radiative effects of dust clouds, and the effect of alignment may be to substantially modify the transmitted radiation. Few explanations for the alignment of dust are available, but one possibility is that the dust is charged and becomes aligned in a vertical atmospheric electric field (Ulanowski et al, 2007).

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