Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Paul D. Kleiber

First Committee Member

Paul D Kleiber

Second Committee Member

Mark A Young

Third Committee Member

Vicki H Grassian

Fourth Committee Member

Steven R Spangler

Fifth Committee Member

Frederick N Skiff

Sixth Committee Member

Kenneth Gayley


Mineral dust aerosol plays an important role in determining the physical and chemical equilibrium of the atmosphere. The radiative balance of the Earth's atmosphere can be affected by mineral dust through both direct and indirect means. Mineral dust can directly scatter or absorb incoming visible solar radiation and outgoing terrestrial IR radiation. Dust particles can also serve as cloud condensation nuclei, thereby increasing albedo, or provide sites for heterogeneous reactions with trace gas species, which are indirect effects. Unfortunately, many of these processes are poorly understood due to incomplete knowledge of the physical and chemical characteristics of the particles including dust concentration and global distribution, as well as aerosol composition, mixing state, and size and shape distributions. Much of the information about mineral dust aerosol loading and spatial distribution is obtained from remote sensing measurements which often rely on measuring the scattering or absorption of light from these particles and are thus subject to errors arising from an incomplete understanding of the scattering processes.

The light scattering properties of several key mineral components of atmospheric dust have been measured at three different wavelengths in the visible. In addition, measurements of the scattering were performed for several authentic mineral dust aerosols, including Saharan sand, diatomaceous earth, Iowa loess soil, and palagonite. These samples include particles that are highly irregular in shape. Using known optical constants along with measured size distributions, simulations of the light scattering process were performed using both Mie and T-Matrix theories. Particle shapes were approximated as a distribution of spheroids for the T-Matrix calculations.

It was found that the theoretical model simulations differed markedly from experimental measurements of the light scattering, particularly near the mid-range and near backscattering angles. In many cases, in the near backward direction, theoretical models predicted scattering intensities for near spherical particles that were up to 3 times higher than the experimentally measured values. It was found that better agreement between simulations and experiments could be obtained for the visible scattering by using a much wider range of more eccentric particle shapes.


aerosol, light scattering, Mie, mineral dust, radiative forcing, T-Matrix


xix, 190 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 182-190).


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Copyright 2011 Brian Steven Meland

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