Control of Saharan mineral dust transport to Barbados in winter by the Intertropical Convergence Zone over West Africa



[1] The reasons for the inter-annual variability of dust transport from the Sahara across the Atlantic are not well-understood. Here we address this issue by defining three new climate indices that capture the position and intensity of the zone of near-surface convergence over West Africa, a part of the global Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). We then relate these indices to a 38-year record of mineral dust concentrations at Barbados focusing on the winter season. The results show that the latitudinal displacement of the ITCZ over West Africa and the dust load in Barbados are statistically significantly correlated with a correlation coefficient ofr= −0.69. A southward movement of the ITCZ corresponds to an increased dust load at Barbados. This correlation represents an improvement upon previous results, which focused on traditional teleconnection indices such as the North Atlantic Oscillation or the El-Niño-Southern Oscillation. From analyzing composites of wind and precipitation we conclude that for the winter season, the inter-annual variability of the Barbados dust load is related to changes in near-surface northeasterly winds in semi-arid regions in North Africa coincident with the movement of the ITCZ. Changes in precipitation appear to only play a minor role.