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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 29 Aug 2018

Research article | 29 Aug 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Unusual vertical structure of the Saharan Air Layer and giant dust particles during AER-D

Franco Marenco1, Claire Ryder2, Victor Estellés3, Debbie O'Sullivan1, Jennifer Brooke1, and Luke Orgill2,4 Franco Marenco et al.
  • 1Met Office, Exeter, UK
  • 2University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 3University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
  • 4University of Exeter, Exeter, UK

Abstract. The Saharan Air Layer (SAL) in the summertime Eastern Atlantic is typically well-mixed and 3–4km deep, overlying the marine boundary layer (MBL). In this paper, we show experimental evidence that at times a very different structure can be observed. During the AER-D airborne campaign in August 2015, the typical structure described above was observed most of the times, and was associated with a moderate dust content yielding an Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) of 0.3–0.4 at 355nm. In an intense event, however, an unprecedented vertical structure was observed close to the Eastern boundary of the basin, displaying an uneven vertical distribution and a very large AOD (1.5–2), with most of the dust in a much lower level than usual (0.3–2km). Estimated dust concentrations and column loadings spanned 300–5500μgm−3 and 0.8–7.5gm−2, respectively. The shortwave direct radiative impact of the intense dust event has been evaluated to be as large as −260±30 and −120±15Wm−2 at the surface and top of atmosphere, respectively. This event was also correlated with anomalous lightning activity in the Canary Islands.

In all cases, our measurements detected a broad distribution of aerosol sizes, ranging from ~0.1 to ~80μm (diameter), thus highlighting the presence of giant particles. Giant dust particles were also found in the MBL. We note that most aerosol models may miss the giant particles due to the fact that they use size bins up to 10–25μm. The unusual vertical structure and the giant particles may have implications for dust transport over the Atlantic during intense events, and may affect the estimate of dust deposited to the Ocean. We believe that future campaigns should focus more on events with high aerosol load, and that instrumentation capable of detecting giant particles will be key to dust observations in this part of the world.

Franco Marenco et al.
Interactive discussion
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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  • RC1: 'Review', Anonymous Referee #1, 11 Sep 2018 Printer-friendly Version
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Franco Marenco et al.
Franco Marenco et al.
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Short summary
In the AER-D campaign in the Eastern Atlantic an instance of unusual vertical structure of the dusty Saharan Air Layer was reported during an intense event. This event had a large radiative impact, and was correlated with anomalous lightning activity. The measurements also highlighted a significant presence of giant dust particles. This is important because most models would miss the giant particles, and this may well change the way we represent dust transport and deposition in the Atlantic.
In the AER-D campaign in the Eastern Atlantic an instance of unusual vertical structure of the...