Articles | Volume 11, issue 16
Research article
18 Aug 2011
Research article |  | 18 Aug 2011

The fate of saharan dust across the atlantic and implications for a central american dust barrier

E. Nowottnick, P. Colarco, A. da Silva, D. Hlavka, and M. McGill

Abstract. Saharan dust was observed over the Caribbean basin during the summer 2007 NASA Tropical Composition, Cloud, and Climate Coupling (TC4) field experiment. Airborne Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL) and satellite observations from MODIS suggest a barrier to dust transport across Central America into the eastern Pacific. We use the NASA GEOS-5 atmospheric transport model with online aerosol tracers to perform simulations of the TC4 time period in order to understand the nature of this barrier. Our simulations are driven by the Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) meteorological analyses. Compared to observations from MODIS and CALIOP, GEOS-5 reproduces the observed location and magnitude of observed dust events, but our baseline simulation does not develop as strong a barrier to dust transport across Central America as observations suggest. Analysis of the dust transport dynamics and loss processes suggest that while both mechanisms play a role in defining the dust transport barrier, loss processes by wet removal of dust are about twice as important as transport. Sensitivity analyses with our model showed that the dust barrier would not exist without convective scavenging over the Caribbean. The best agreement between our model and the observations was obtained when dust wet removal was parameterized to be more aggressive, treating the dust as we do hydrophilic aerosols.

Final-revised paper