Sensitivity of MENA Tropical Rainbelt to Dust Shortwave Absorption: A High Resolution AGCM Experiment

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Shortwave absorption is one of the most important, but the most uncertain, components of direct radiative effect by mineral dust. It has a broad range of estimates from different observational and modeling studies and there is no consensus on the strength of absorption. To elucidate the sensitivity of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) tropical summer rainbelt to a plausible range of uncertainty in dust shortwave absorption, AMIP-style global high resolution (25 km) simulations are conducted with and without dust, using the High-Resolution Atmospheric Model (HiRAM). Simulations with dust comprise three different cases by assuming dust as a very efficient, standard and inefficient absorber. Inter-comparison of these simulations shows that the response of the MENA tropical rainbelt is extremely sensitive to the strength of shortwave absorption. Further analyses reveal that the sensitivity of the rainbelt stems from the sensitivity of the multi-scale circulations that define the rainbelt. The maximum response and sensitivity are predicted over the northern edge of the rainbelt, geographically over Sahel. The sensitivity of the responses over the Sahel, especially that of precipitation, is comparable to the mean state. Locally, the response in precipitation reaches up to 50% of the mean, while dust is assumed to be a very efficient absorber. Taking into account that Sahel has a very high climate variability and is extremely vulnerable to changes in precipitation, the present study suggests the importance of reducing uncertainty in dust shortwave absorption for a better simulation and interpretation of the Sahel climate.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7103-7126
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number19
StatePublished - Jun 13 2016

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): CRG3, URF/1/2180-01
Acknowledgements: We thank Paul A. Ginoux of GFDL for providing dust optical properties
based on Balkanski et al. [2007]. We also thank V. Ramaswamy, M. Zhao, B. Wyman, and C.
Kerr of GFDL for helping to acquire and use HiRAM model. The research reported in this publication was supported by the institutional award (WBS URF/1/2180-01-01 for the OCRF CRG3 )
from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to Georgiy Stenchikov.
For computer time, this research used the resources of the Supercomputing Laboratory at KAUST in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. The simulation results and figures are available from the authors upon request.


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