Aerosol and pollutant transport and their impact on radiative forcing over the tropical Indian Ocean during the January – February 1996 pre-INDOEX cruise

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Krishnamurti, T. N. ; Jha, B. ; Prospero, J. ; Jayaraman, A. ; Ramanathan, V. (2011)

 Measurements of aerosol bulk composition, optical depth, size distribution and the incoming solar radiation flux were carried out over the coastal waters of India, the Arabian sea and the tropical Indian Ocean during a cruise conducted in January 1996. Aerosol concentrations were relatively high throughout much of the cruise, even when the ship was at considerable distances from land. In this paper, we link the observed spatial variations and meridional gradients in the measurements to monsoonal and inter-hemispheric transport across the ITCZ using a high resolution global reanalysis that highlights the winter monsoon. We show that the northeast monsoonal low level flow can transport sulfates, mineral dust and other aerosols from the Indian sub-continent to the ITCZ within 6–7 days. These transports result in an increase the aerosol optical depth (AOD) at the equator by as much as 0.2 and a decrease in the solar radiative forcing at the sea surface by about 10–20 Wm-2. The high concentrations of continental aerosols are a result of three factors: strong (about 6–10 m/s) near-surface northerly flow; a shallow boundary layer of about 400 to 800 m thick, which traps the pollutants; subsidence, associated with the northeast monsoon, which suppresses rainfall over most of the Arabian sea and thus minimizes the wet removal process. In addition dust can be transported in the middle troposphere from the Arabian desert to the cruise region 4000 km away with a transit time of 2–3 days. There is strong evidence of interhemispheric transports effected by eddies that wrap around the ITCZ. These eddies bring clean southern hemisphere air to about 10°N in the Indian Ocean and carry polluted continental air into the southern-hemisphere. In this manner, substantial amounts of aerosols and other pollutants can be routinely transported to the southern-hemisphere Indian Ocean during the northeast monsoon. Thus, in order to understand the connection between continental emissions and impacts over the Indian Ocean, it is necessary to focus on the rôle of the northeast monsoon in the large-scale atmospheric circulation over this region.DOI: 10.1034/j.1600-0889.1998.00009.x
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