Potential Climate Effects of Dust Aerosols’ over West Africa

Friday, 19 December 2014
Zhenming JI1,2, Guiling Wang1, Jeremy S Pal2 and Miao Yu1, (1)University of Connecticut, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Storrs, CT, United States, (2)Loyola Marymount University, Department of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Climate in West Africa is under the influence of the West African monsoon circulation and mineral dust emitted from the Sahara desert (which is the world’s largest source of mineral dust emission). Dust aerosols alter the atmospheric radiative fluxes and act as cloud condensation nuclei in the process of emission, transportation and deposition. However, our understanding regarding how dust aerosols influence the present-day and future climate of West Africa is very limited. In this study, a regional climate model RegCM4.3.4-CLM4.5 is used to investigate the potential climatic effects of dust aerosols both in present (1981-2000) and future (2081-2100) periods over WA. First, the model performance and dust climatic effects are evaluated. The contribution of dust climatic effects under RCP8.5 scenario and their confounding effects with land use change are assessed. Our results indicate that the model can reproduce with reasonable accuracy the spatial and temporal distribution of climatology, aerosol optical depth and surface concentration over WA. The shortwave radiative forcing of dust is negative in the surface and positive in the atmosphere, with greater changes in JJA and MAM compared to those in SON and DJF. Over most of West Africa, cooling is the dominant effect on temperature. Their impact on precipitation features a dipole pattern, with decrease in the north and increase in the south of West Africa. Despite the dust-induced decrease of precipitation amount, dusts cause extreme precipitation to increase.

To evaluate the uncertainties surrounding our modeling results, sensitivity experiments driven by ICBC from MIROC-ESM and CESM and their dynamic downscaling results are used for comparisons. Results from these sensitivity experiments indicate that the impact of dust aerosols on present and future climate is robust.