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Po-Lun Ma, Kai Zhang, Jainn Jong Shi, Toshihisa Matsui, and Albert Arking

Abstract

Episodic events of both Saharan dust outbreaks and African easterly waves (AEWs) are observed to move westward over the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean. The relationship between the warm, dry, and dusty Saharan air layer on the nearby storms has been the subject of considerable debate. In this study, the Weather Research and Forecasting model is used to investigate the radiative effect of dust on the development of AEWs during August and September, the months of maximum tropical cyclone activity, in years 2003–07. The simulations show that dust radiative forcing enhances the convective instability of the environment. As a result, most AEWs intensify in the presence of a dust layer. The Lorenz energy cycle analysis reveals that the dust radiative forcing enhances the condensational heating, which elevates the zonal and eddy available potential energy. In turn, available potential energy is effectively converted to eddy kinetic energy, in which local convective overturning plays the primary role. The magnitude of the intensification effect depends on the initial environmental conditions, including moisture, baroclinity, and the depth of the boundary layer. The authors conclude that dust radiative forcing, albeit small, serves as a catalyst to promote local convection that facilitates AEW development.

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