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Can desert dust explain the outgoing longwave radiation anomaly over the Sahara during July 2003?

Haywood, J.M., Allan, R.P. ORCID:, Culverwell, I., Slingo, A., Milton, S.F., Edwards, J.M. and Clerbaux, N. (2005) Can desert dust explain the outgoing longwave radiation anomaly over the Sahara during July 2003? Journal of Geophysical Research, 110 (D5). D05105. ISSN 0148-0227

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1029/2004JD005232


Measurements of the top‐of‐the‐atmosphere outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) for July 2003 from Meteosat‐7 are used to assess the performance of the numerical weather prediction version of the Met Office Unified Model. A significant difference is found over desert regions of northern Africa where the model emits too much OLR by up to 35 Wm−2 in the monthly mean. By cloud‐screening the data we find an error of up to 50 Wm−2 associated with cloud‐free areas, which suggests an error in the model surface temperature, surface emissivity, or atmospheric transmission. By building up a physical model of the radiative properties of mineral dust based on in situ, and surface‐based and satellite remote sensing observations we show that the most plausible explanation for the discrepancy in OLR is due to the neglect of mineral dust in the model. The calculations suggest that mineral dust can exert a longwave radiative forcing by as much as 50 Wm−2 in the monthly mean for 1200 UTC in cloud‐free regions, which accounts for the discrepancy between the model and the Meteosat‐7 observations. This suggests that inclusion of the radiative effects of mineral dust will lead to a significant improvement in the radiation balance of numerical weather prediction models with subsequent improvements in performance.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Environmental Systems Science Centre
ID Code:1894
Uncontrolled Keywords:mineral dust; aerosol; radiative effect; radiation budget; Sahara; satellite Atmospheric Composition and Structure: Aerosols and particles; Global Change: Remote sensing; Radiative processes; Remote sensing;
Publisher:American Geophysical Union

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