J2.5 Observations of Windblown Dust Transportation Hazards Using Time-lapse Photography

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 4:30 PM
Room 244 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
David DuBois, New Mexico State Univ., Las Cruces, NM; and K. Desomer, A. Quevedo, Y. Zhao, S. Engle, and E. Smith

The hazards of windblown dust impacting our southwestern US transportation networks is a long term problem particularly during extended droughts. In an effort to monitor windblown dust along a portion of Interstate 10 in far southwestern New Mexico, we installed a network of five battery powered time-lapse cameras. The cameras were installed on a dry lake or playa that extends across an area of more than 100 square kilometers. The playa is seasonally wet during the monsoon at certain low areas. These commercially available cameras were installed in June of 2015, configured to collect an image every 5 seconds, and were attached to fence posts at various locations on the playa. The cameras are part of a dust early warning detection system that is being developed at New Mexico State University and the Desert Research Institute. Dust events were cataloged from the imagery to include dust devils, extended dust plumes, and small plumes from wind gusts. Of particular interest to our research are the extended dust plumes that arise from thunderstorm microbursts. In May of 2014, one of these events caused a multiple vehicle pile-up and resulted in seven fatalities at this location. Our findings from the last half of 2015 show that playa dust events occur daily when the top most soil layer becomes dry. Median duration of dust events from June and July were more than 2 minutes. The talk will review the dust occurrence database and how it will be used. Stakeholders in the project include the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Bureau of Land Management, NM Department of Transportation, NM State Lands Office, NM State Police, and local ranchers. This project is also in collaboration with the NRCS on a soil survey on the playa that will help in the understanding of dust emissions across the area.
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