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Observation and modeling of the historic “Godzilla” African dust intrusion...

Yu, H., Q. Tan, L. Zhou, Y. Zhou, H. Bian, M. Chin, C. L. Ryder, R. Levy, Y. Pradhan, Y. Shi, Q. Song, Z. Zhang, P. R. Colarco, D. Kim, L. Remer, T. Yuan, O. Mayol-Bracero, and B. Holben (2021), Observation and modeling of the historic “Godzilla” African dust intrusion into the Caribbean Basin and the southern US in June 2020, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 21, 12359-12383, doi:10.5194/acp-21-12359-2021.

This study characterizes a massive African dust intrusion into the Caribbean Basin and southern US in June 2020, which is nicknamed the “Godzilla” dust plume, using a comprehensive set of satellite and ground-based observations (including MODIS, CALIOP, SEVIRI, AERONET, and EPA Air Quality network) and the NASA GEOS global aerosol transport model. The MODIS data record registered this massive dust intrusion event as the most intense episode over the past 2 decades. During this event, the aerosol optical depth (AOD) observed by AERONET and MODIS peaked at 3.5 off the coast of West Africa and 1.8 in the Caribbean Basin. CALIOP observations show that the top of the dust plume reached altitudes of 6–8 km in West Africa and descended to about 4 km altitude over the Caribbean Basin and 2 km over the US Gulf of Mexico coast. The dust intrusion event degraded the air quality in Puerto Rico to a hazardous level, with maximum daily PM10 concentration of 453 µg m−3 recorded on 23 June. The dust intrusion into the US raised the PM2.5 concentration on 27 June to a level exceeding the EPA air quality standard in about 40 % of the stations in the southern US. Satellite observations reveal that dust emissions from convection-generated haboobs and other sources in West Africa were large albeit not extreme on a daily basis. However, the anomalous strength and northern shift of the North Atlantic Subtropical High (NASH) together with the Azores low formed a closed circulation pattern that allowed for accumulation of the dust near the African coast for about 4 d. When the NASH was weakened and wandered back to the south, the dust outflow region was dominated by a strong African easterly jet that rapidly transported the accumulated dust from the coastal region toward the Caribbean Basin, resulting in the recordbreaking African dust intrusion. In comparison to satellite observations, the GEOS model reproduced the MODIS observed tracks of the meandering dust plume well as it was carried by the wind systems. However, the model substantially underestimated dust emissions from haboobs and did not lift up enough dust to the middle troposphere for ensuing long-range transport. Consequently, the model largely missed the satellite-observed elevated dust plume along the cross-ocean track and underestimated the dust intrusion into the Caribbean Basin by a factor of more than 4. Modeling im-

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Research Program: 
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)
Funding Sources: 
The Science of Terra, Aqua, and SNPP; CALIPSO/CloudSat Science Team