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Department of Physics


We examine satellite-derived aerosol optical depth (AOD) data during the period 2000-2018 over the Middle East to evaluate the contribution of anthropogenic pollution. We focus on Iraq, where US troops were present for nearly nine years. We begin with a plausibility argument linking anthropogenic influence and AOD signature. We then calculate the percent change in AOD every two years. To pinpoint the causes for changes in AOD on a spatial basis, we distinguish between synoptically "calm" periods and those with vigorous synoptic activity. This was done on high-resolution 10 km AOD retrievals from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor (Terra satellite). We found spatiotemporal variability in the intensity of the AOD and its standard deviation along the dust-storm corridor during three studied periods: before Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) (1 March 2000-19 March 2003), during OIF (20 March 2003-1 September 2010), and Operation New Dawn (OND; 1 September 2010-18 December 2011), and after the US troops' withdrawal (19 December 2011-31 December 2018). Pixels of military camps and bases, major roads and areas of conflict, and their corresponding AOD values, were selected to study possible effects. We found that winter, with its higher frequency of days with synoptically "calm" conditions compared to spring and summer, was the best season to quantitatively estimate the impact of these ground-based sources. Surprisingly, an anthropogenic impact on the AOD signature was also visible during vigorous synoptic activity. Meteorological conditions that favor detection of these effects using space imagery are discussed, where the effects are more salient than in surrounding regions with similar meteorological conditions. This exceeds expectations when considering synoptic variations alone.

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© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( Publisher’s version of record:

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Remote Sensing

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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