Desert dust particles are uplifted from bare area by strong winds. They may travel up to thousands of kilometers, for example from North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Dust particles influence the climate directly by modifying the energy balance (cooling or heating, depending on the conditions) and indirectly through an effect on wind patterns, clouds and rain. These effects still bear large uncertainties and depend on the 3D distribution of the particles in the air. At BIRA-IASB we use satellite data to obtain, for the first time, global 3D distributions of dust particles.

We use the data gathered by the Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI) onboard the EUMETSAT Metop satellite series since end 2006. IASI provides a high-resolution spectrum of the Earth-emitted (surface and atmosphere) radiations and reflected solar radiations from 3.62µm to 15.5µm. To obtain dust 3D distributions we use the Thermal Infrared (TIR) part of that spectrum, with only Earth-emitted radiations. We even only use a part of the TIR where the atmospheric gases have a very low impact: around 9µm and 11µm. There, only clouds and certain types of particles (dust and ash) have a significant impact on the outgoing radiation.

Our dust aerosols retrieval algorithm is called Mineral Aerosol Profiling from Infrared Radiation (MAPIR). It provides the vertical profile of the dust aerosols concentration for each cloud-free IASI spectrum. The product also contains the integrated Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) at 10µm and the value converted at 550nm. The current last version is MAPIR v4.1, and the complete IASI/Metop-A time series is available from September 2007 to December 2018 (soon June 2019). Every 6 months, the data set is extended by 6 months. We are also working on a Near Real Time delivery. The geographic coverage is almost global (except polar areas) from February 2011 onwards. Prior to that date, the coverage is limited to 0-40°N, 80°W to 120°E for technical reasons linked to the processing and the IASI data format.

Any interested user is invited to contact the lead scientist on this project (Sophie Vandenbussche, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to obtain the data and guidance for its proper scientific use. Some evaluation information is shown in the validation page.


Algorithm and validation

Callewaert, S., Vandenbussche, S., Kumps, N., Kylling, A., Shang, X., Komppula, M., Goloub, P., and De Mazière, M.: The Mineral Aerosol Profiling from Infrared Radiances (MAPIR) algorithm: version 4.1 description and evaluation, Atmos. Meas. Tech.,, 2019.

Kylling, A., Vandenbussche, S., Capelle, V., Cuesta, J., Klüser, L., Lelli, L., Popp, T., Stebel, K., and Veefkind, P.: Comparison of dust-layer heights from active and passive satellite sensors, Atmos. Meas., 11, 2911-2936,, 2018.

Popp, T.; De Leeuw, G.; Bingen, C.; Brühl, C.; Capelle, V.; Chedin, A.; Clarisse, L.; Dubovik, O.; Grainger, R.; Griesfeller, J.; Heckel, A.; Kinne, S.; Klüser, L.; Kosmale, M.; Kolmonen, P.; Lelli, L.; Litvinov, P.; Mei, L.; North, P.; Pinnock, S.; Povey, A.; Robert, C.; Schulz, M.; Sogacheva, L.; Stebel, K.; Stein Zweers, D.; Thomas, G.; Tilstra, L.G.; Vandenbussche, S.; Veefkind, P.; Vountas, M.; Xue, Y.: Development, Production and Evaluation of Aerosol Climate Data Records from European Satellite Observations (Aerosol_cci). Remote Sens., 8, 421,, 2016.

Vandenbussche, S., Kochenova, S., Vandaele, A. C., Kumps, N., and De Mazière, M.: Retrieval of desert dust aerosol vertical profiles from IASI measurements in the TIR atmospheric window, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 6, 2577-2591,, 2013.

Data exploitation

Vandenbussche, S. and De Mazière, M.: African mineral dust sources: a combined analysis based on 3D dust aerosols distributions, winds and surface parameters, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.,, 2017.

Funding acknowledgements

For the algorithm developments

Belgian Science Policy (Belspo) Supplementary Researcher's Program

European Space Agency (ESA) Climate Change Initiative (CCI) phase 2 aerosols project

Belgian Science Policy (Belspo) / European Space Agency (ESA) PRODEX program under the IASI.flow project phases 2 and 3

European Commission (EC) Horizon 2020 (H2020) European Natural Airborne Disaster Information and Coordination System for Aviation (EUNADICS-AV)

For the data processing

European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) Copernicus Climate Change Services (C3S) 312a Lot5 Aerosols

European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) Copernicus Climate Change Services (C3S) 312b Lot2 Atmospheric Composition

For the data exploitation

European Space Agency (ESA) Living Planet Fellowship (LPF) project called "A new method for assessing mineral dust sources using vertical profile information retrieved from IASI radiances" (MIDUSO)