Date of Graduation

Fall 2011


Master of Science in Geospatial Sciences


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Committee Chair

Robert Pavlowsky


atmospheric dust, MODIS, potential wind erosion index, landforms, quaternary aeolian sand sheet, soil resistance, spatial patterns of dust emission

Subject Categories

Geology | Soil Science


The Southern High Plains of Texas and eastern New Mexico are one of the major sources of dust in North America. Using MODIS satellite imagery, this study has identified locations, climatic factors and landform characteristics for 676 dust plumes from 2000 to 2009. Meteorological data were used to model an index of potential erosion (Ew) over a 37 county area. The analyses show that blowing dust is not uniform over the source area region. The Ew index did not correlate with the frequency of dust sources and explains less than 10% of dust occurrence in the study area, suggesting that annual climate variations did not affect dust sources. However, there is a strong relationship between dust sources and geology. Almost 80% of all dust sources occurred on landforms composed of Quaternary aeolian sand sheets. Furthermore, farmlands within these flat and sandy land areas tend to produce the majority of the dust sources since soil cultivation reduces vegetation cover and soil resistance to wind erosion. Within the Southern High Plains region, climate variables are not the major factor controlling the spatial patterns of dust emission over a 10 year period of observation, wind only provides the energy that drives the process. However, atmospheric dust sources are strongly correlated with the presence of flat plains, sandy soils (i.e., aolian sand sheets and playas), and agricultural lands in the Southern High Plains.


© Mbongowo Joseph Mbuh

Campus Only