We examine the spatio-temporal variability of aerosol loading in the recent decade (2005–2014) over the North American Monsoon (NAM) region. Emerging patterns are characterized using aerosol optical depth (AOD) retrievals from the NASA Terra/Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument along with a suite of satellite retrievals of atmospheric and land-surface properties. We selected 20 aerosol hotspots and classified them into fire, anthropogenic, dust, and NAM alley clusters based on the dominant driver influencing aerosol variability. We then analyzed multivariate statistics of associated anomalies during pre-, monsoon, and post-monsoon periods. Our results show a decrease in aerosol loading for the entire NAM region, confirming previous reports of a declining AOD trend over the continental United States. This is evident during pre-monsoon and monsoon for fire and anthropogenic clusters, which are associated with a decrease in the lower and upper quartile of fire counts and carbon monoxide, respectively. The overall pattern is obfuscated in the NAM alley, especially during monsoon and post-monsoon seasons. While the NAM alley is mostly affected by monsoon precipitation, the frequent occurrence of dust storms in the area modulates this trend. We find that aerosol loading in the dust cluster is associated with observed vegetation index and has only slightly decreased in the recent decade.
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