Articles | Volume 15, issue 22
Research article
20 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 20 Nov 2015

Feedbacks of dust and boundary layer meteorology during a dust storm in the eastern Mediterranean

S. Rémy, A. Benedetti, A. Bozzo, T. Haiden, L. Jones, M. Razinger, J. Flemming, R. J. Engelen, V. H. Peuch, and J. N. Thepaut

Abstract. Aerosols affect the atmosphere through direct interaction with short-wave and long-wave radiation and the microphysical properties of clouds. In this paper we report in detail on several mechanisms by which the short-term impact of dust on surface radiative fluxes can affect the dust loading of the atmosphere via modification of boundary-layer meteorology. This in turn affects the aerosol radiative forcing itself. Examples of these feedbacks between dust and boundary layer meteorology were observed during a series of dust storms in the Sahara and the eastern Mediterranean in April 2012. These case studies have been analysed using the Monitoring Atmospheric Composition and Climate – Interim Implementation (MACC-II) system.

The radiative fluxes in the short-wave and long-wave spectra were both significantly affected by the prognostic aerosol–radiation interaction, which in turn impacted the meteorological simulation. Reduced incoming solar radiation below the aerosol layers led to a decrease in maximum surface temperatures and to a more stable thermal stratification of the lower atmosphere. This in turn forced weaker surface wind speeds and eventually smaller dust emissions. Moreover, we also observed a secondary impact of the aerosol radiative forcing, whereby horizontal gradients of surface temperature were increased at the edge of the dust plume, which led to local increases of surface wind speeds due to the thermal wind effect. The differentiated impact of the aerosol layer on surface pressure also contributed to the increase in surface wind speed and dust production in the same area.

Enhanced long-wave radiative fluxes by the dust mass were associated with opposite processes. Less stable thermal stratification at night, brought mainly by higher minimum temperatures at the surface, caused stronger surface winds. At the edge of the dust storm, weaker horizontal temperature and pressure gradients forced lower winds and reduced dust production.

Regarding dust emissions, short-wave radiative forcing had a larger impact than long-wave radiative forcing, corroborating several previous studies. For surface temperature, short-wave and long-wave contribution were close in intensity.

These feedbacks were amplified when using data assimilation to build the aerosol analysis of the MACC-II global system. This led to an improvement in the short-term forecasts of thermal radiative fluxes and surface temperatures.

Short summary
In this paper we report on the feedbacks between dust and boundary layer meteorology during a dust storm over Egypt and Libya in April 2012, using an atmospheric composition forecasting system. Dust was found to act on atmospheric stability, leading to an increase (night) or a decrease (day) in dust production. Horizontal gradients of temperature were modified by the radiative impact of the dust layer, leading to changes in wind patterns at the edge of the storm due to the thermal wind effect.
Final-revised paper