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Keywords:

  • Saharan dust;
  • mineral dust;
  • airborne measurements;
  • remote sensing

Abstract

The Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget Intercomparison of Longwave and Shortwave radiation (GERBILS) was an observational field experiment over North Africa during June 2007. The campaign involved 10 flights by the FAAM BAe-146 research aircraft over southwestern parts of the Sahara Desert and coastal stretches of the Atlantic Ocean. Objectives of the GERBILS campaign included characterisation of mineral dust geographic distribution and physical and optical properties, assessment of the impact upon radiation, validation of satellite remote sensing retrievals, and validation of numerical weather prediction model forecasts of aerosol optical depths (AODs) and size distributions. We provide the motivation behind GERBILS and the experimental design and report the progress made in each of the objectives. We show that mineral dust in the region is relatively non-absorbing (mean single scattering albedo at 550 nm of 0.97) owing to the relatively small fraction of iron oxides present (1–3%), and that detailed spectral radiances are most accurately modelled using irregularly shaped particles. Satellite retrievals over bright desert surfaces are challenging owing to the lack of spectral contrast between the dust and the underlying surface. However, new techniques have been developed which are shown to be in relatively good agreement with AERONET estimates of AOD and with each other. This encouraging result enables relatively robust validation of numerical models which treat the production, transport, and deposition of mineral dust. The dust models themselves are able to represent large-scale synoptically driven dust events to a reasonable degree, but some deficiencies remain both in the Sahara and over the Sahelian region, where cold pool outflow from convective cells associated with the intertropical convergence zone can lead to significant dust production. Copyright © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society and British Crown Copyright, the Met Office