A GCM Study of Responses of the Atmospheric Water Cycle of West Africa and the Atlantic to Saharan Dust Radiative Forcing

  • Lau K
  • Kim K
  • Sud Y
 et al. 
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The responses of the atmospheric water cycle and climate of West Africa and the Atlantic to radiative forcing of Saharan dust are studied using the NASA finite volume general circulation model (fvGCM), coupled to a mixed layer ocean. We find evidence in support of the "elevated heat pump" (EHP) mechanism that underlines the responses of the atmospheric water cycle to dust forcing as follow. During the boreal summer, as a result of large-scale atmospheric feed back triggered by absorbing dust aerosols, rainfall and cloudiness are enhanced over the West Africa/Easter Atlantic ITCZ, and suppressed over the West Atlantic and Caribbean. region. Shortwave radiation absorption by dust warms the atmosphere and cools the surface, while long wave has the opposite response. The elevated dust layer warms the air over Nest Africa and the eastern Atlantic. The condensation heating associated with the induced deep convection drives and maintains an anomalous large-scale east-west overturning circulation with rising motion over West Africa/eastern Atlantic, and sinking motion over the Caribbean region. The response also includes a strengthening of the West African monsoon, manifested in northward shift of the West Africa precipitation over land, increased low-level westerlies flow over West Africa at the southern edge of the dust layer, and a near surface energy fluxes, resulting in cooling of the Nest African land and the eastern Atlantic, and a warming in the West Atlantic and Caribbean. The EHP effect is most effective for moderate to highly absorbing dusts, and becomes minimized for reflecting dust with single scattering albedo at 0.95 or higher.

Author-supplied keywords

  • aerosols particles
  • atmospheric composition structure
  • dynamics
  • meteorology atmospheric
  • precipitation
  • radiative processes

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  • K M Lau

  • Kyu-Myong Kim

  • Yogesh C Sud

  • Gregory L Walker

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