Articles | Volume 17, issue 21
Research article
03 Nov 2017
Research article |  | 03 Nov 2017

Profiling of Saharan dust from the Caribbean to western Africa – Part 1: Layering structures and optical properties from shipborne polarization/Raman lidar observations

Franziska Rittmeister, Albert Ansmann, Ronny Engelmann, Annett Skupin, Holger Baars, Thomas Kanitz, and Stefan Kinne

Abstract. We present final and quality-assured results of multiwavelength polarization/Raman lidar observations of the Saharan air layer (SAL) over the tropical Atlantic. Observations were performed aboard the German research vessel R/V Meteor during the 1-month transatlantic cruise from Guadeloupe to Cabo Verde over 4500 km from 61.5 to 20° W at 14–15° N in April–May 2013. First results of the shipborne lidar measurements, conducted in the framework of SALTRACE (Saharan Aerosol Long-range Transport and Aerosol–Cloud Interaction Experiment), were reported by Kanitz et al.(2014). Here, we present four observational cases representing key stages of the SAL evolution between Africa and the Caribbean in detail in terms of layering structures and optical properties of the mixture of predominantly dust and aged smoke in the SAL. We discuss to what extent the lidar results confirm the validity of the SAL conceptual model which describes the dust long-range transport and removal processes over the tropical Atlantic. Our observations of a clean marine aerosol layer (MAL, layer from the surface to the SAL base) confirm the conceptual model and suggest that the removal of dust from the MAL, below the SAL, is very efficient. However, the removal of dust from the SAL assumed in the conceptual model to be caused by gravitational settling in combination with large-scale subsidence is weaker than expected. To explain the observed homogenous (height-independent) dust optical properties from the SAL base to the SAL top, from the African coast to the Caribbean, we have to assume that the particle sedimentation strength is reduced and dust vertical mixing and upward transport mechanisms must be active in the SAL. Based on lidar observations on 20 nights at different longitudes in May 2013, we found, on average, MAL and SAL layer mean values (at 532 nm) of the extinction-to-backscatter ratio (lidar ratio) of 17±5 sr (MAL) and 43±8 sr (SAL), of the particle linear depolarization ratio of 0.025±0.015 (MAL) and 0.19±0.09 (SAL), and of the particle extinction coefficient of 67±45 Mm−1 (MAL) and 68±37 Mm−1 (SAL). The 532 nm optical depth of the lofted SAL was found to be, on average, 0.15±0.13 during the ship cruise. The comparably low values of the SAL mean lidar ratio and depolarization ratio (compared to typical pure dust values of 50–60 sr and 0.3, respectively) in combination with backward trajectories indicate a smoke contribution to light extinction of the order of 20 % during May 2013, at the end of the burning season in central-western Africa.

Final-revised paper