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Name: Russell B.
Status: student
Age:  17
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Wednesday, June 26, 2002

What is the range in size and origin of airborne particles?


Someone else may give a more detailed answer to this. However, particles from nearly microscopic to tens of micrometers (called micron) in diameter can be carried in air. The heavier particles can be carried short distances (miles) by strong turbulent winds, but eventually settle back to the ground. Particles less than 3 microns can stay airborne for much larger distances (hundreds of miles) before they settle out or are removed by rain. Particles less than a micron can be literally carried around the Earth and into the upper parts of the atmosphere if the conditions are right.

Long-range transport of small particles from dry climates especially can sometimes be seen in satellite photographs. A plume from the western Sahara extends all the way to Florida at times and dust or sulfate particulates from China can extend well out over the Pacific Ocean past Japan.

Particles from volcanoes often end up in the stratosphere and stay there for several years, circling the Earth.

David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory

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