National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2009

Trends in Saharan dust and tropical Atlantic climate during 1980–2006

Foltz, G.R., and M.J. McPhaden

Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L20706, doi: 10.1029/2008GL035042 (2008)

Trends in tropical Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST), Sahel rainfall, and Saharan dust are investigated during 1980–2006. This period is characterized by a significant increase in tropical North Atlantic SST and the transition from a negative to a positive phase of the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO). It is found that dust concentrations over western Africa and the tropical North Atlantic Ocean decreased significantly between 1980 and 2006 in association with an increase in Sahel rainfall. The decrease in dust in the tropical North Atlantic tended to increase the surface radiative heat flux by 0.7 W m⁻² which, if unbalanced, would lead to an increase in SST of 3°C. Coupled models significantly underestimate the amplitude of the AMO in the tropical North Atlantic possibly because they do not account for changes in Saharan dust concentration.

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