Modeled and observed atmospheric radiation balance during the West African dry season: role of mineral dust, biomass burning aerosol, and surface albedo
Milton, S. F., Greed, G., Brooks, M. E., Haywood, J., Johnson, B., Allan, R. P., Slingo, A. and Grey, W. M. F. (2008) Modeled and observed atmospheric radiation balance during the West African dry season: role of mineral dust, biomass burning aerosol, and surface albedo. Journal of Geophysical Research, 113 (D20). D00C02. ISSN 0148-0227
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1029/2007JD009741
The global radiation balance of the atmosphere is still poorly observed, particularly at the surface. We investigate the observed radiation balance at (1) the surface using the ARM Mobile Facility in Niamey, Niger, and (2) the top of the atmosphere (TOA) over West Africa using data from the Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) instrument on board Meteosat-8. Observed radiative fluxes are compared with predictions from the global numerical weather prediction (NWP) version of the Met Office Unified Model (MetUM). The evaluation points to major shortcomings in the NWP model's radiative fluxes during the dry season (December 2005 to April 2006) arising from (1) a lack of absorbing aerosol in the model (mineral dust and biomass burning aerosol) and (2) a poor specification of the surface albedo. A case study of the major Saharan dust outbreak of 6–12 March 2006 is used to evaluate a parameterization of mineral dust for use in the NWP models. The model shows good predictability of the large-scale flow out to 4–5 days with the dust parameterization providing reasonable dust uplift, spatial distribution, and temporal evolution for this strongly forced dust event. The direct radiative impact of the dust reduces net downward shortwave (SW) flux at the surface (TOA) by a maximum of 200 W m−2 (150 W m−2), with a SW heating of the atmospheric column. The impacts of dust on terrestrial radiation are smaller. Comparisons of TOA (surface) radiation balance with GERB (ARM) show the “dusty” forecasts reduce biases in the radiative fluxes and improve surface temperatures and vertical thermodynamic structure.