The Climatological Effect of Saharan Dust on Global Tropical Cyclones in a Fully Coupled GCM

Jeffrey D.O. Strong, Gabriel Andres Vecchi, Paul Ginoux

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35 Scopus citations


Climate in the tropical North Atlantic and West Africa is known to be sensitive to both the atmospheric burden and optical properties of aerosolized mineral dust. We investigate the global climatic response to an idealized perturbation in atmospheric burden of Saharan-born mineral dust, comparable to the observed changes between the 1960s and 1980s, using simulations with the high-resolution, fully coupled Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model 2.5, Forecast-oriented Low Ocean Resolution version, across a range of realistic optical properties, with a specific focus on tropical cyclones. The direct radiative responses at the top of the atmosphere and at the surface along with regional hydrologic and thermodynamic responses are in agreement with previous studies, depending largely on the amount of aerosol absorption versus scattering. In all simulations, dust causes a decrease in tropical cyclone activity across the North Atlantic Ocean, as determined by a tropical cyclone tracking scheme, with the largest response occurring in the most absorbing and scattering optical regimes. These changes are partially corroborated by common local genesis potential indices. However, no clear-cut explanation can be developed upon inspection of their constituent variables. There are also nonnegligible anomalies in the North Pacific and Indian Oceans in these simulations. A relationship between accumulated cyclone energy and top of the atmosphere radiative flux anomalies is used to explain the North Atlantic anomalies, while analogy to known climate variations can help us understand the far-field response to the dust forcing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5538-5559
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 27 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sahara
  • climatology
  • dust
  • tropical cyclones


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