Articles | Volume 13, issue 11
Research article
10 Jun 2013
Research article |  | 10 Jun 2013

Estimate of surface direct radiative forcing of desert dust from atmospheric modulation of the aerosol optical depth

A. di Sarra, D. Fuà, and D. Meloni

Abstract. Measurements carried out on the island of Lampedusa, in the central Mediterranean, on 7 September 2005, show the occurrence of a quasi-periodic oscillation of aerosol optical depth, column water vapour, and surface irradiance in different spectral bands. The oscillation has a period of about 13 min and is attributed to the propagation of a gravity wave able to modify the vertical structure of the planetary boundary layer, as also confirmed by satellite images. The wave occurred during a Saharan dust event. The oscillation amplitude is about 0.1 for the aerosol optical depth, and about 0.4 cm for the column water vapour. The modulation of the downward surface irradiances is in opposition of phase with respect to aerosol optical depth and water vapour column variations. The perturbation of the downward irradiance produced by the aerosols is determined by comparing the measured irradiances with estimated irradiances at a fixed value of the aerosol optical depth, and by correcting for the effect of the water vapour in the shortwave spectral range. The direct radiative forcing efficiency, i.e., the radiative perturbation of the net surface irradiance produced by a unit of optical depth aerosol layer, is determined at different solar zenith angles as the slope of the irradiance perturbation versus the aerosol optical depth. The estimated direct surface forcing efficiency at about 60° solar zenith angle is −(181 ± 17) W m−2 in the shortwave, and −(83 ± 7) W m−2 in the photosynthetic spectral range. The estimated daily average forcing efficiencies are of about −79 and −46 W m−2 for the shortwave and photosynthetic spectral range, respectively.

Final-revised paper