Climate & Environment

Post-Doctoral Fellowships


Insight in Dust Fine-Mode to Mitigate Health Hazards in a Changing Climate

This research project is one of the 8 projects selected following the call for proposals on Health Impact of Climate Change.

Expected start date:June-2023

In late-April/early-May 2022, a surge of remarkable dust storms ravaged Iraq, resulted- according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and local sources - to hospitalization of more than 5000 people due to poor Air Quality. While dust hazards of this magnitude are unusual, high concentrations of dust aerosol load - frequently exceeding WHO Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs) - are a norm, not only for countries in close proximity to the Earth’s dust sources and regions located even thousands of downwind, but also for the highly-industrialized and densely-populated areas/Megacities of the Earth, posing a significant risk factor to human health.

Of particular concern for the dust-induced disorders on human health is the fine-mode (submicrometer-inhalable) component of dust particles (PM1). More specifically, recent epidemiological studies have revealed that due to their small size dust fine-mode particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and alveoli, leading to allergic responses, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, even to pandemics (i.e., Sahel meningitis outbreaks). However, despite dust consisting an important and increasing environmental risk factor for human health, especially under the ongoing Climate Change and the intensifying anthropogenic activity, current poor knowledge on the inhalable fine-mode component of airborne dust within the Planetary Boundary Layer (PBL) and at regional or near-global extend, hampers the potential to assess the impact of inhalable dust particles in health disorders.

Dr. E. Proestakis, AXA Climate and Health Fellow at the National Observatory of Athens (NOA), will investigate the impact of the inhalable fine-mode component of airborne dust to Air Quality. Through sophisticated active remote sensing algorithms and satellite-based Earth Observation, the Fellow aims to advance our dust geo-information knowledge on dust Air Quality, at a near-global scale and over long-term periods, of dust PM1 load residing at the lowest part of the troposphere (PBL), where poor Air Quality strongly influences human health.

Of particular concern for the Fellow is the consideration of PBL dust PM1 over the highly-industrialized and densely-populated areas/Megacities of the world, and the change on dust fine-mode atmospheric load during the past two decades. Moreover, Dr. E. Proestakis aims through detailed time-series analysis of dust fine-mode provided by both observational datasets and atmospheric reanalysis models, to identify world areas/Megacities that it is expected dust PM1 to exceed WHO AQGs in the near-future. Finally, the activity aims to shed new light in understanding pandemics, for the role of aeolian mineral dust particles as bacterial carriers, such in the case of Sahel meningitis outbreaks during the Harmattan Seasons, remains elusive.

Overall, Dr. E. Proestakis envisages to extensively utilize novel satellite-products to foster new knowledge on the harmful component of dust particles at regional and global scales, and eventually provide the society with an advanced pure-observational mean to support adaptation and mitigation actions for Air Quality safety management, to preserve human health in the years to come.

April 2023



National Observatory of Athens