An assessment of Saharan dust loading and the corresponding cloud-free longwave direct radiative effect from geostationary satellite observations



[1] Previously, a method was developed to quantify Saharan dust optical thickness and simultaneously diagnose the cloud-free longwave dust direct radiative effect (LWDRE) over a single surface site using observations from the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) and Geostationary Earth Radiation Budget (GERB) instrument both flying on the Meteosat Second Generation series of satellites. In this paper the overall utility of the approach is investigated using a more comprehensive suite of observations, and the inherent uncertainties associated with the method are assessed. On the basis of these findings, the approach has been updated to account for the effects of varying dust layer altitude. Comparisons with colocated observations from the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) and Multiangle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) using the modified approach indicate that the visible optical thickness at 0.55 μm, τ055, can be obtained with an RMS uncertainty of ∼0.3 over North Africa and Arabia during sunlit hours, while monthly maps of optical depth derived over this region through spring and summer of 2006 show similar variability to that identified in the long-term climatology provided by the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) Aerosol Index. The regional mean instantaneous cloud-free LWDRE and associated LW radiative efficiency estimated from GERB over the same period are relatively constant with season, ranging from 9 to 11 W m−2 and 16–20 W m−2τ055−1, respectively.