Saharan dust intrusions in Spain: Health impacts and associated synoptic conditions.
The Sahara desert transports large quantities of dust over the Sahelian region during the Northern Hemisphere winter and spring seasons (December-April). In episodic events, high dust concentrations are found at the surface, negatively impacting respiratory health. Bacterial meningitis in particular is known to affect populations that live in the Sahelian zones, which is otherwise known as the meningitis belt. During the winter and spring of 2012, suspected meningitis cases (SMCs) were with three times higher than in 2013. We show higher surface particular matter concentrations at Dakar, Senegal and elevated atmospheric dust loading in Senegal for the period of 1 January-31 May during 2012 relative to 2013. We analyze simulated particulate matter over Senegal from the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model during 2012 and 2013. The results show higher simulated dust concentrations during the winter season of 2012 for Senegal. The WRF model correctly captures the large dust events from 1 January-31 March but has shown less skill during April and May for simulated dust concentrations. The results also show that the boundary conditions are the key feature for correctly simulating large dust events and initial conditions are less important.