Avellaneda, NM, Serra, N, Minnett, PJ, Stammer, D (2010). Response of the eastern subtropical Atlantic SST to Saharan dust: A modeling and observational study. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-OCEANS, 115, C08015.
Retrievals of aerosol optical depth (AOD) from MODIS, and of sea surface temperature (SST) from TMI are analyzed jointly with the output of a numerical model for the period 2000-2006 to determine the impact of Saharan dust on the eastern subtropical North Atlantic SST. Simultaneously with, or shortly after strong dust outbreaks, a decrease in SST of 0.2 degrees to 0.4 degrees C can be observed in the microwave SST data set, which is consistent with an independent estimate of SST decrease simulated here by a local mixed layer model. However, low wind conditions and a shallow mixed layer are required to reach this response, and it is therefore unlikely that a clear response of SST to dust lasting more than a few days can be seen in the microwave SST observations. An inspection of microwave SST observations suggests that about 30% of SST variance could be explained by dust-induced cooling in our study region that is not represented in existing AVHRR SST fields nor represented in reanalysis centers-provided surface heat fluxes. On longer time scales, a comparison between observed SST fields and simulated SST, using an eddy-permitting model of the North Atlantic, suggests a cooling of about 0.5 degrees C on the local SST on sub-seasonal to interannual time scales which is significantly correlated and consistent with a dust-induced cooling. However, while supportive of the hypothesis that Saharan dust lead to a reduction in SST, the eddy-resolving model results are not by themselves conclusive. Moreover, the effects of dust-induced cooling on simulations of the ocean circulation, on atmospheric forecasts and on climate simulations remains to be investigated in future studies.