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Large-scale impact of Saharan dust on the North Atlantic Ocean circulation

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Serra, N., Martínez Avellaneda, N., & Stammer, D. (2014). Large-scale impact of Saharan dust on the North Atlantic Ocean circulation. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 119(2), 704-730. doi:10.1002/2013JC009274.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0024-631B-6
Abstract
The potential for a dynamical impact of Saharan mineral dust on the North Atlantic Ocean large-scale circulation is investigated. To this end, an ocean general circulation model forced by atmospheric fluxes is perturbed by an idealized, seasonally varying, net shortwave flux anomaly, as it results from remote sensing observations of aerosol optical thickness representing Saharan dust load in the atmosphere. The dust dynamical impact on the circulation is assessed through a comparison between perturbed and an unperturbed run. Results suggest that, following the dust-induced shortwave irradiance anomaly, a buoyancy anomaly is created in the Atlantic offshore the African coast, which over the course of the time propagates westward into the interior Atlantic while progressively subducting. Changes in the large-scale barotropic and overturning circulations are significant after 3 years, which coincides with the elapsed time required by the bulk of the buoyancy perturbation to reach the western boundary of the North Atlantic. Although small in amplitude, the changes in the meridional overturning are of the same order as interannual-to-decadal variability. Variations in the amplitude of the forcing lead to changes in the amplitude of the response, which is almost linear during the first 3 years. In addition, a fast, but dynamically insignificant, response can be observed to propagate poleward along the eastern boundary of the North Atlantic, which contributes to a nonlinear response in the subpolar region north of 40°N.