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Cloud Cover over the Sahara during the Summer and Associated Circulation Features

Abstract : Over the Sahara in summer, the activity of the Saharan thermal low pressure system (SHL), which is linked to the West-African monsoon dynamics and the mid-latitude circulation, is modulated by dust concentration and water-vapor transport. In this context, the role of clouds over western Sahara remains under-investigated. Using Meteosat-Second-Generation geostationary satellite data, for the first time the variability of cloud occurrence over Sahara by type in summer, at diurnal, daily and intra-seasonal time scales for the 2008-2014 period is documented. Using European Center for Medium-range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF) Reanalysis (ERA) Interim (ERAI) reanalysis, cloud cover occurrences are characterized in terms of regional circulation patterns and moisture balance. We show that, over West-Sahara and Hoggar, mid-top clouds are the most frequent cloud-type in summer. Their summit reaches between 500 hPa and 400 hPa and lies just above the top of the Saharan Atmospheric Boundary Layer (SABL). During the rest of the year, high-top clouds are the most frequent. The variations in the spatial distribution of mid-top cloud occurrence coincide with the seasonal displacement and strengthening of the SHL and, in the mid-troposphere, of the Saharan anticyclone. Mid-top clouds occur most frequently when, at large scale, mass and humidity converge in the lower SABL due to heating on an extensive surface, and diverge in the upper SABL. Their diurnal cycle, with minimal frequency around 10 UTC and maximum in the evening, is consistent with the diurnal development of the Saharan Convective-Boundary-Layer. The frequency of high cloud increases when anticyclonic circulations at mid-level and upper-level retreat to the southeast and upper-level trough from mid-latitudes can penetrate more southwards.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - 11:31:45 AM
Last modification on : Sunday, January 9, 2022 - 4:24:01 PM

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Nada Selami, Geneviève Sèze, Marco Gaetani, Jean-Yves Grandpeix, Cyrille Flamant, et al.. Cloud Cover over the Sahara during the Summer and Associated Circulation Features. Atmosphere, MDPI 2021, 12 (4), pp.428. ⟨10.3390/atmos12040428⟩. ⟨insu-03185196⟩

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