Influence of Orography Upon Summertime Low-Level Jet Dust Emission in the Central and Western Sahara

Low-level jets (LLJs) drive frequent emission of mineral dust in the central and western Sahara in boreal summer. A major hotspot for this process is central Algeria, northern Mali and Mauritania, through which blow the dry near-surface northeasterly Harmattan winds, with a peak in dust emission around the low-lying Tidihelt region. North African orography is thought to contribute to the strength of the LLJ over the Bodele dust source in Chad, but its influence on erosivity over summertime source regions remains unquantified. In this paper, the contribution of central Saharan orography to the strength of Harmattan LLJs and associated dust emission frequency is tested. An idealized simulation with flattened Hoggar mountains is compared with a control using the Met Office Unified Model at 12 km horizontal resolution. In the absence of the Hoggar mountains, dust emission frequency estimated using an empirical relationship with surface wind speeds is found to decline across the entire northeasterly “LLJ alley,” including by 31% in the Tidihelt where composited jet surface winds drop from 9.0 to 7.3 m s−1 under a more easterly regime. The mountains are linked to a low-level leeward geopotential height perturbation, with a northern limb reinforcing northeasterlies through the Tidihelt. Dome-shaped elevated heating situated over the Hoggar mountains explains the difference between the simulated wind fields in the two experiments. These findings suggest that central Saharan orography plays an important role in sustaining erosive dusty conditions during boreal summer.


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Authors: Caton Harrison, T. ORCIDORCID record for T. Caton Harrison, Washington, R., Engelstaedter, S., Jones, R.G., Savage, N.H.

On this site: Thomas Caton Harrison
1 November, 2021
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres / 126
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