Playa type, size, and setting; playa hydrology; and surface-sediment characteristics are important controls on the type and amount of atmospheric dust emitted from playas. Soft, evaporite-rich sediment develops on the surfaces of some Mojave Desert (USA) playas (wet playas), where the water table is shallow (< 4 m). These areas are sources of atmospheric dust because of continuous or episodic replenishment of wind-erodible salts and disruption of the ground surface during salt formation by evaporation of ground water. Dust emission at Franklin Lake playa was monitored between March 2005 and April 2008. The dust record, based on day-time remote digital camera images captured during high wind, and compared with a nearby precipitation record, shows that aridity suppresses dust emission. High frequency of dust generation appears to be associated with relatively wet periods, identified as either heavy precipitation events or sustained regional precipitation over a few months. Several factors may act separately or in combination to account for this relation. Dust emission may respond rapidly to heavy precipitation when the dissolution of hard, wind-resistant evaporite mineral crusts is followed by the development of soft surfaces with thin, newly formed crusts that are vulnerable to wind erosion and (or) the production of loose aggregates of evaporite minerals that are quickly removed by even moderate winds. Dust loading may also increase when relatively high regional precipitation leads to decreasing depth to the water table, thereby increasing rates of vapor discharge, development of evaporite minerals, and temporary softening of playa surfaces. The seasonality of wind strength was not a major factor in dust-storm frequency at the playa. The lack of major dust emissions related to flood-derived sediment at Franklin Lake playa contrasts with some dry-lake systems elsewhere that may produce large amounts of dust from flood sediments. Flood sediments do not commonly accumulate on the surface of Franklin Lake playa because through-going drainage prevents frequent inundation and deposition of widespread flood sediment.
Reynolds, Richard L.; Bogle, Rian; Vogel, John; Goldstein, Harland; and Yount, James
"Dust emission at Franklin Lake Playa, Mojave Desert (USA): Response to meteorological and hydrologic changes 2005-2008,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 15, Article 18.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol15/iss1/18