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Bing Pu and Qinjian Jin

Abstract

High concentrations of dust can affect climate and human health, yet our understanding of extreme dust events is still limited. A record-breaking trans-Atlantic African dust plume occurred during June 14–28, 2020, greatly degrading air quality over large areas of the Caribbean Basin and U.S. Daily PM2.5 concentrations exceeded 50 μg m−3 in several Gulf States, while the air quality index reached unhealthy levels for sensitive groups in more than 11 States. The magnitude and duration of aerosol optical depth over the tropical North Atlantic Ocean were the greatest ever observed during summer over the past 18 years based on satellite retrievals. This extreme trans-Atlantic dust event is associated with both enhanced dust emissions over western North Africa and atmospheric circulation extremes that favor long-range dust transport. An exceptionally strong African easterly jet and associated wave activities export African dust across the Atlantic toward the Caribbean in the middle to lower troposphere, while a westward extension of the North Atlantic subtropical high and a greatly intensified Caribbean low-level jet further transport the descended, shallower dust plume from the Caribbean Basin into the U.S. Over western North Africa, increased dust emissions are associated with strongly enhanced surface winds over dust source regions and reduced vegetation coverage in the western Sahel. While there are large uncertainties associated with assessing future trends in African dust emissions, model-projected atmospheric circulation changes in a warmer future generally favor increased long-range transport of African dust to the Caribbean Basin and the U.S.

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Qinjian Jin, Zong-Liang Yang, and Jiangfeng Wei

Abstract

The seasonal responses of the Indian summer monsoon (ISM) to dust aerosols in local (the Thar Desert) and remote (the Middle East and western China) regions are studied using the WRF Model coupled with online chemistry (WRF-Chem). Ensemble experiments are designed by perturbing model physical and chemical schemes to examine the uncertainties of model parameterizations. Model results show that the dust-induced increase in ISM total rainfall can be attributed to the remote dust in the Middle East, while the contributions from local and remote dust are very limited. Convective rainfall shows a spatially more homogeneous increase than stratiform rainfall, whose responses follow the topography. The magnitude of dust-induced increase in rainfall is comparable to that caused by anthropogenic aerosols. The Middle East dust aerosols tend to enhance the southwesterly monsoon flow, which can transport more water vapor to southern and northern India, while the anthropogenic aerosols tend to enhance the southeasterly monsoon flow, resulting in more water vapor and rainfall over northern India. Both dust and anthropogenic aerosol-induced rainfall responses can be attributed to their heating effect in the mid-to-upper troposphere, which enhances monsoon circulations. The heating effect of dust over the Iranian Plateau seems to play a bigger role than that over the Tibetan Plateau, while the heating of anthropogenic aerosols over the Tibetan Plateau is more important. Moreover, dust aerosols can decrease rainfall over the Arabian Sea through their indirect effect. This study addresses the relative roles of dust and anthropogenic aerosols in altering the ISM rainfall and provides insights into aerosol–ISM interactions.

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