Joseph M. Prospero, Jim Price, Shankararaman Chellam, Ayse Bozlaker
Large quantities of African dust are carried across the Atlantic to the Caribbean Basin and southern United States where it plays an important role in the biogeochemistry of soils and waters and in air quality. Dusts' elemental and isotopic composition was comprehensively characterized in Barbados during the summers of 2013 and 2014, the season of maximum dust transport. Although total suspended insoluble particulate matter (TSIP) mass concentrations varied significantly daily and between the two summers, the abundances (μg element/g TSIP) of 50 elements during “high-dust days” (HDD) were similar. Aerosols were regularly enriched in Na, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Mo, Cd, Sn, Sb, and W relative to the upper continental crust. Enrichment of these elements, many of which are anthropogenically emitted, was significantly reduced during HDD, attributed to mixing and dilution with desert dust over source regions. Generally, Ti/Al, Si/Al, Ca/Al, Ti/Fe, Si/Fe, and Ca/Fe ratios during HDD differed from their respective values in hypothesized North African source regions. Nd isotope composition was relatively invariant for “low-dust days” (LDD) and HDD. In contrast, HDD-aerosols were more radiogenic exhibiting higher 87Sr/86Sr, 206Pb/204Pb, 207Pb/204Pb, and 208Pb/204Pb ratios compared to LDD. Generally, Barbados aerosols' composition ranged within narrow limits and was much more homogeneous than that of hypothesized African source soils. Our results suggest that summertime Barbados aerosols are dominated by a mixture of particles originating from sources in the Sahara-Sahel regions. The Bodélé Depression, long suspected as a major source, appears to be an insignificant contributor of summertime western Atlantic dust.