Quantitative information on the contribution of dust storms to atmospheric PM10 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter < or = 10 microm) levels is still lacking, especially in urban environments with close proximity to dust sources. The main objective of this study was to quantify the contribution of dust storms to PM10 concentrations in a desert urban center, the city of Beer-Sheva, Negev, Israel, during the period of 2001-2012. Toward this end, a background value based on the "dust-free" season was used as a threshold value to identify potentially "dust days." Subsequently, the net contribution of dust storms to PM10 was assessed. During the study period, daily PM10 concentrations ranged from 6 to over 2000 microg/m3. In each year, over 10% of the daily concentrations exceeded the calculated threshold (BVt) of 71 microg/m3. An average daily net contribution of dust to PM10 of 122 microg/m3 was calculated for the entire study period based on this background value. Furthermore, a dust storm intensity parameter (Ai) was used to analyze several storms with very high PM10 contributions (hourly averages of 1000-5197 microg/m3). This analysis revealed that the strongest storms occurred mainly in the last 3 yr of the study. Finally, these findings indicate that this arid urban environment experiences high PM10 levels whose origin lies in both local and regional dust events.
Implications: The findings indicate that over time, the urban arid environment experiences high PM10 levels whose origin lies in local and regional dust events. It was noticed that the strongest storms have occurred mainly in the last 3 yr. It is believed that environmental changes such as global warming and desertification may lead to an increased air pollution and risk exposure to human health.