Dominance of mineral dust in aerosol light-scattering in the North Atlantic trade winds

X. Li, H. Maring, D. Savoie, K. Voss, J. M. Prospero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

272 Scopus citations

Abstract

ATMOSPHERIC aerosols can affect climate by scattering and absorbing solar radiation1-3. Most recent studies of such effects have focused largely on anthropogenic sulphate aerosols, which are believed to exert a substantial cooling influence2. Mineral dust aerosols have been largely ignored, because it was thought that their scattering efficiency and concentrations were too low to have a substantial effect on climate. Here we report measurements of the light-scattering properties of North African dust delivered to Barbados by the North Atlantic trade winds. Although the mass scattering efficiency of the dust is only about a quarter of that of non-seasalt sulphate over the North Atlantic5, the annual-mean dust concentration in Barbados trade-wind air is 16 times that of non-seasalt sulphate6. The net scattering by mineral dust is therefore about four times that by non-seasalt sulphate aerosols. African mineral dust should therefore be the dominant light-scattering aerosol throughout the tropical and subtropical North Atlantic region. Our observations suggest that mineral dust could be an important climate-forcing agent over this ocean region and in other regions where dust concentrations are high7,8.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)416-419
Number of pages4
JournalNature
Volume380
Issue number6573
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 4 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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