Revisiting the relationship between Atlantic dust and tropical cyclone activity using aerosol optical depth reanalyses: 2003-2018

Peng Xian, Philip J. Klotzbach, Jason P. Dunion, Matthew A. Janiga, Jeffrey S. Reid, Peter R. Colarco, Zak Kipling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Previous studies have noted a relationship between African dust and Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) activity. However, due to the limitations of past dust analyses, the strength of this relationship remains uncertain. The emergence of aerosol reanalyses, including the Navy Aerosol Analysis and Prediction System (NAAPS) aerosol optical depth (AOD) reanalysis, NASA Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2), and ECMWF Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service reanalysis (CAMSRA), enables an investigation of the relationship between African dust and TC activity over the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean in a consistent temporal and spatial manner for 2003-2018. Although June-July-August (JJA) 550&nm dust AOD (DAOD) from all three reanalysis products correlates significantly over the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, the difference in DAOD magnitude between products can be as large as 60&% over the Caribbean and 20&% over the tropical North Atlantic. Based on the three individual reanalyses, we have created an aerosol multi-reanalysis consensus (MRC). The MRC presents overall better root mean square error over the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean compared to individual reanalyses when verified with ground-based AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET) AOD measurements. Each of the three individual reanalyses and the MRC have significant negative correlations between JJA Caribbean DAOD and seasonal Atlantic accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), while the correlation between JJA tropical North Atlantic DAOD and seasonal ACE is weaker. Possible reasons for this regional difference are provided. A composite analysis of 3 high-JJA-Caribbean-DAOD years versus 3 low-JJA-Caribbean-DAOD years reveals large differences in overall Atlantic TC activity. We also show that JJA Caribbean DAOD is significantly correlated with large-scale fields associated with variability in interannual Atlantic TC activity including zonal wind shear, mid-level moisture, and sea surface temperature (SST), as well as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Atlantic Meridional Mode (AMM), implying confounding effects of these factors on the dust-TC relationship. We find that seasonal Atlantic DAOD and the AMM, the leading mode of coupled Atlantic variability, are inversely related and intertwined in the dust-TC relationship. Overall, DAOD in both the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean is negatively correlated with Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity, with stronger correlations in the Caribbean than farther east in the tropical North Atlantic

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number153572020
Pages (from-to)15357-15378
Number of pages22
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 11 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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