Articles | Volume 10, issue 19
01 Oct 2010
 | 01 Oct 2010

Chemistry of rain events in West Africa: evidence of dust and biogenic influence in convective systems

K. Desboeufs, E. Journet, J.-L. Rajot, S. Chevaillier, S. Triquet, P. Formenti, and A. Zakou

Abstract. This paper documents the chemical composition of 7 rain events associated with mesoscale convective systems sampled at the supersite of Banizoumbou, Niger, during the first special observation periods (June–July 2006) of the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA) experiment. Time-resolved rain sampling was performed in order to discriminate the local dust scavenged at the beginning of rain event from the aerosol particles incorporated in the cloud at the end of the rain. The total elemental composition is dominated by Al, Si, Fe and Ca, indicating a high influence of dust and limited marine or anthropogenic contribution. After the aerosol wash-out, the elemental concentrations normalized to Al and the microscopic observations of diatoms, a tracer of the Bodélé depression, both indicate that the total elemental composition of rainwater is controlled by dust originating from North-eastern Saharan sources and probably incorporated in the convective cloud from the Harmattan layer. The low variability of the rain composition over the measurement period indicates a regional and temporal homogeneity of dust composition in the Harmattan layer. In the dissolved phase, the dominant anions are nitrate (NO3), sulphate (SO42−) and chloride (Cl). However, between June and July we observe an increasing contribution of the organic anions (formate, acetate, oxalate) associated with biogenic emissions to the total ion composition. These results confirm the large influence of biogenic emissions on the rain composition over Sahel during the wet season. The paper concludes on the capacity of mesoscale convective systems to carry simultaneously dust and biogenic compounds originating from different locations and depose them jointly. It also discusses the potential biogeochemical impact of such a phenomenon.

Final-revised paper