El Roque de Los Muchachos Site Characteristics. III. Analysis of Atmospheric Dust and Aerosol Extinction

Lombardi, G.
Zitelli, V.
Ortolani, S.
Pedani, M.
Ghedina, A.
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Canary Islands are normally interested by dominant North-East winds that, in some meteorological conditions, can transport sand at high altitude from the Sahara desert. The dust may affect the efficiency of the telescopes and decreases the transparency of the sky. In order to maximize the scientific return of the telescopes located at the ORM, we present an analysis of the atmospheric dust content and its effects on astronomical observations. B, V and I dust aerosol astronomical extinction are derived. Using a 5 years series database of data taken from the four channel TNG dust monitor, we compute a mean hourly and daily values of the dust content. We have detected particles having size 0.3, 0.5, 1.0 and 5.0 um. Using a power law we have derived the content of 10.0 um particles. We found a typical local dust concentration ranging from 3x10^6 particles per cubic meter at 0.3 um, to 10^3 at 5.0 um and 10 at 10.0 um, increasing up to 3 order of magnitudes during the dust storms, with a relative higher increase of 1.0, 5.0 and 10.0 um particles. The number of local dust storm events is the same in winter- and summertime, but, the average background and storm-related increases in the dust concentration in summer are significantly higher than in winter. In a uniform approximation, during the dust storms, an average height of the dust layer of 2.5 km above the telescope is inferred. During the sand storms La Palma Island is affected by an almost uniform layer extending up to 5 km above the sea level, down, at least the height of the telescope. The visible extinction is dominated by particles at 1.0, 5.0 and 10.0 um. In agreement with the results from Carlsberg Automatic Meridian Circle (CAMC) we find a typical extinction during dust storms of about 0.2 mag/airmass.
Comment: Accepted for publication in A&A. 9 pages, 11 figures. This work is the continuation of a series of papers concerning a detailed study of the Astroclimatology at ORM. The two previous papers (both Lombardi et al.) have reference PASP.2006.118.1198-1204 and PASP.2007.119.292-302