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Smoke in the river: an Aerosols, Radiation and Clouds in southern Africa (AEROCLO-sA) case study

Abstract : The formation of a river of smoke crossing southern Africa was investigated during the Aerosols, Radiation and Clouds in southern Africa (AEROCLO-sA) campaign in September 2017. A complementary set of global and mesoscale numerical simulations as well as ground-based, airborne and space-borne observations of the dynamics, thermodynamics and composition of the atmosphere are used to characterize the river of smoke in terms of timing and vertical extent of the biomass burning aerosol (BBA) layer. The study area was under the synoptic influence of a coastal low rooted in a tropical easterly wave and a high-pressure system over the continent and westerly waves at mid latitudes, one of which had an embedded cut-off low (CoL). The coastal low interacted with the second of two approaching westerly waves and ultimately formed a mid-level tropical temperate trough (TTT). The TTT created the fast-moving air mass transported to the southwestern Indian Ocean as a river of smoke. The CoL, which developed and intensified in the upper levels associated with the first (easternmost) westerly wave, remained stationary above northern Namibia prior to the formation of the TTT and was responsible for the thickening of the BBA layer. This shows that the evolution of the river of smoke is very much tied to the evolution of the TTT, while its vertical extent is related to the presence of the CoL. The mechanisms by which the CoL, observed over Namibia in the entrance region of the river of smoke, influences the vertical structure of the BBA layer is mainly associated with the ascending motion above the BBA layer. In the presence of the CoL, the top of the BBA layer over northern Namibia reaches altitudes above 8 km. This is much higher than the average height of the top of the BBA layer over the regions where the smoke comes from (Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique), which is 5 to 6 km. The results suggest that the interaction between the TTTs and the CoLs which form during the winter may have a role in promoting the transport of BBA from fire-prone regions in the tropical band to the temperate mid latitudes and the southwestern Indian Ocean.
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Submitted on : Monday, May 2, 2022 - 9:02:23 PM
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Cyrille Flamant, Marco Gaetani, Jean-Pierre Chaboureau, Patrick Chazette, Juan Cuesta, et al.. Smoke in the river: an Aerosols, Radiation and Clouds in southern Africa (AEROCLO-sA) case study. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, European Geosciences Union, 2022, 22 (8), pp.5701-5724. ⟨10.5194/acp-22-5701-2022⟩. ⟨insu-03657331⟩

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