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Keywords:

  • radiative forcing;
  • single scattering albedo;
  • secondary organic aerosols

[1] The radiative forcing associated with biomass burning aerosols has been calculated over West Africa using a chemical transport model. The model simulations focus on the period of January∼February 2006 during the Dust and Biomass-burning Experiment (DABEX). All of the main aerosol components for this region are modeled including mineral dust, biomass burning (BB) aerosols, secondary organic carbon associated with BB emissions, and carbonaceous particles from the use of fossil fuel and biofuel. The optical properties of the BB aerosol are specified using aircraft data from DABEX. The modeled aerosol optical depth (AOD) is within 15–20% of data from the few available Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) measurement stations. However, the model predicts very high AOD over central Africa, which disagrees somewhat with satellite retrieved AOD from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR). This indicates that BB emissions may be too high in central Africa or that very high AOD may be incorrectly screened out of the satellite data. The aerosol single scattering albedo increases with wavelength in our model and in AERONET retrievals, which contrasts with results from a previous biomass burning aerosol campaign. The model gives a strong negative radiative forcing of the BB aerosols at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) in clear-sky conditions over most of the domain, except over the Saharan desert where surface albedos are high. The all-sky TOA radiative forcing is quite inhomogeneous with values varying from −10 to 10 W m−2. The regional mean TOA radiative forcing is close to zero for the all-sky calculation and around −1.5 W m−2 for the clear-sky calculation. Sensitivity simulations indicate a positive regional mean TOA radiative forcing of up to 3 W m−2.