Saharan dust as a causal factor of hemispheric asymmetry in aerosols and cloud cover over the tropical Atlantic Ocean

Pavel Kishcha*, Arlindo da Silva, Boris Starobinets, Charles Long, Olga Kalashnikova, Pinhas Alpert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies showed that, over the global ocean, there is no noticeable hemispheric asymmetry in cloud fraction (CF). This contributes to the balance in solar radiation reaching the sea surface in the northern and southern hemispheres. In the current study, we focus on the tropical Atlantic (30° N–30° S), which is characterized by significant amounts of Saharan dust dominating other aerosol species over the North Atlantic. Our main point is that, over the tropical Atlantic, Saharan dust not only is responsible for the pronounced hemispheric aerosol asymmetry, but also contributes to significant cloud cover along the Saharan Air Layer (SAL). Over the tropical Atlantic in July, along the SAL, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer CF data showed significant cloud cover (up to 0.8–0.9). This significant CF along SAL together with clouds over the Atlantic Intertropical Convergence Zone contributes to the 20% hemispheric CF asymmetry. This leads to the imbalance in strong solar radiation, which reaches the sea surface between the tropical North and South Atlantic, and, consequently, affects climate formation in the tropical Atlantic. During the 10-year study period (July 2002–June 2012), NASA Aerosol Reanalysis (aka MERRAero) showed that, when the hemispheric asymmetry in dust aerosol optical thickness (AOT) was most pronounced (particularly in July), dust AOT averaged separately over the tropical North Atlantic was one order of magnitude higher than that averaged over the tropical South Atlantic. In the presence of such strong hemispheric asymmetry in dust AOT in July, CF averaged separately over the tropical North Atlantic exceeded that over the tropical South Atlantic by 20%. Both Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer measurements and MERRAero data were in agreement on seasonal variations in hemispheric aerosol asymmetry. Hemispheric asymmetry in total AOT over the Atlantic was most pronounced between March and July, when dust presence over the North Atlantic was maximal. In September and October, there was no noticeable hemispheric aerosol asymmetry between the tropical North and South Atlantic. During the season with no noticeable hemispheric aerosol asymmetry, we found no noticeable asymmetry in cloud cover.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3423-3445
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number13
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2015


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