Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 27185-27226, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed
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Radiative impact of mineral dust on monsoon precipitation variability over West Africa
C. Zhao, X. Liu, L. R. Leung, and S. Hagos
Atmospheric Science and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA

Abstract. The radiative forcing of dust and its impact on precipitation over the West Africa monsoon (WAM) region is simulated using a coupled meteorology and aerosol/chemistry model (WRF-Chem). During the monsoon season, dust is a dominant contributor to aerosol optical depth (AOD) over West Africa. In the control simulation, on 24-h domain average, dust has a cooling effect (−6.11 W/m2) at the surface, a warming effect (6.94 W/m2) in the atmosphere, and a relatively small TOA forcing (0.83 W/m2). Dust modifies the surface energy budget and atmospheric diabatic heating and hence causes lower atmospheric cooling in the daytime but warming in the nighttime. As a result, atmospheric stability is increased in the daytime and reduced in the nighttime, leading to a reduction of late afternoon precipitation by up to 0.14 mm/h (25%) and an increase of nocturnal and early morning precipitation by up to 0.04 mm/h (45%) over the WAM region. Dust-induced reduction of diurnal precipitation variation improves the simulated diurnal cycle of precipitation when compared to measurements. However, daily precipitation is only changed by a relatively small amount (−0.17 mm/day or −4%). The dust-induced change of WAM precipitation is not sensitive to interannual monsoon variability. On the other hand, sensitivity simulations show that, from weaker to stronger absorbing dust representing the uncertainty in dust solar absorptivity, dust longwave warming effect in the nighttime surpasses its shortwave cooling effect in the daytime at the surface, leading to a less stable atmosphere associated with more convective precipitation in the nighttime. As a result, the dust-induced change of daily WAM precipitation varies from a significant reduction of −0.52 mm/day (−12%, weaker absorbing dust) to a small increase of 0.03 mm/day (1%, stronger absorbing dust). This variation originates from the competition between dust impact on daytime and nighttime precipitation, which depends on dust shortwave absorption. Dust reduces the diurnal variation of precipitation regardless of its absorptivity, but more reduction is associated with stronger absorbing dust.

Citation: Zhao, C., Liu, X., Leung, L. R., and Hagos, S.: Radiative impact of mineral dust on monsoon precipitation variability over West Africa, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 27185-27226, doi:10.5194/acpd-10-27185-2010, 2010.
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