Variability in tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures and winds is closely linked to African dust outbreaks, suggests an article published online this week in Nature Geoscience. Dust emissions over West Africa are, in turn, strongly influenced by changes in land use.
Amato Evan and colleagues simulated tropical Atlantic Ocean dynamics with an ocean general circulation model, and used reconstructed atmospheric dust concentration from a coral proxy and satellite retrievals to determine surface radiation. Fluctuations in sea surface temperatures arise when there are variable concentrations of dust reflecting solar radiation back to space. The researchers find that these fluctuations help maintain the dominant mode of coupled ocean atmosphere variability in the tropical Atlantic.