Influence of atmospheric circulation patterns on dust transport during Harmattan Period in West Africa

Document Type : Original Research Paper


1 Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) Abuja, Nigeria

2 Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) Abuja, Nigeria Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria


This study has used TOMS AI as well as the reanalysis dataset of thirty-four years (1979-2012) to investigate the influence of atmospheric circulation on dust transport during the Harmattan period in West Africa, using Aerosol Index (AI) data, obtained from various satellite sensors. Changes in Inter-Tropical Discontinuity (ITD), Sea Surface Temperature (SST) over the Gulf of Guinea, and North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) during Harmattan period (November-March) have been analyzed on daily basis with Harmattan dust mobilization as well as atmospheric circulation pattern being evaluated via a kernel density estimate that shows the relation between the two variables. The study has found out that strong north-easterly (NE) trade winds were over most of the Sahelian region of West Africa during the winter months with the maximum wind speed reaching 8.61 m/s in January. The strength of NE winds determines the extent of dust transport to the coast of Gulf of Guinea during winter. This study has also confirmed that the occurrence of the Harmattan chiefly depends on SST in Atlantic Ocean as well as ITD position, not to mention the strength of low level winds. However, it has been noted that NAO has limited effects on dust mobilization in West Africa, in shear contrast to North Africa where NAO is a strong factor in dust mobilization.


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