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Mineral dust aerosols over the Sahara: Processes of emission and transport, and implications for modelling

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:00 authored by Peter Knippertz, Martin ToddMartin Todd
Atmospheric mineral dust has recently become an important research field in Earth system science because of its impacts on radiation, clouds, atmospheric dynamics and chemistry, air quality, and biogeochemical cycles. Studying and modeling dust emission and transport over the world's largest source region, the Sahara, is particularly challenging because of the complex meteorology and a very sparse observational network. Recent advances in satellite retrievals together with ground- and aircraft-based field campaigns have fostered our understanding of the spatiotemporal variability of the dust aerosol and its atmospheric drivers. We now have a more complete picture of the key processes in the atmosphere associated with dust emission. These cover a range of scales from (1) synoptic scale cyclones in the northern sector of the Sahara, harmattan surges and African easterly waves, through (2) low-level jets and cold pools of mesoscale convective systems (particularly over the Sahel), to (3) microscale dust devils and dusty plumes, each with its own pronounced diurnal and seasonal characteristics. This paper summarizes recent progress on monitoring and analyzing the dust distribution over the Sahara and discusses implications for numerical modeling. Among the key challenges for the future are a better quantification of the relative importance of single processes and a more realistic representation of the effects of the smaller-scale meteorological features in dust models. In particular, moist convection has been recognized as a major limitation to our understanding because of the inability of satellites to observe dust under clouds and the difficulties of numerical models to capture convective organization.


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  • Published


Reviews of Geophysics







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  • Geography Publications

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