Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

The low-level jet dust emission mechanism in the central Sahara: Observations from Bordj-Badji Mokhtar during the June 2011 Fennec Intensive Observation Period



This paper presents the first detailed analysis of low-level jets (LLJs) in the central Sahara from ground-based observations at Bordj-Badji Mokhtar, Algeria, and addresses their operation as a dust emission mechanism. On LLJ mornings, composite wind speeds in the core (300 m aboveground level) reach 13.5 m s−1 at 0400. Surface temperatures increase from 0545 (30 min after sunrise), and jet decay begins around 0600. Ten meter winds lag those in the core by 5 h; peak 10 m wind speed, 7.5 m s−1, occurs at 0900. Only the deepest and strongest LLJs lead to dust emission. At 0600, these five LLJs have core wind speeds ≥16 m s−1, below-core wind shear ≥ 0.6 m s−1/30 m, and wind shear between the core and 500 m above the core ≤−1.8 m s−1. On these occasions, momentum mixes down from the LLJ after surface heating, leading to emission. On nondusty LLJ mornings, the convective boundary layer is 100 m shallower, and the LLJ is too weak to provide enough momentum to be mixed down for emission. LLJs are most frequently embedded in the monsoon flow or in the Harmattan; there is a clear association with the Saharan Heat Low. ERA-Interim reanalysis underestimates both Harmattan and monsoon LLJ core winds (by 4 m s−1 and 6 m s−1, respectively). The Met Office Africa Limited Area Model underestimates Harmattan LLJ core winds by only 0.2 m s−1. Monsoon LLJ core winds, however, are underestimated by 8.5 m s−1. Surface winds at 0900 are underestimated in both cases by up to 6 m s−1.