14 Jul 2023
 | 14 Jul 2023

Simulating the dust emissions and SOA formation over Northern Africa during the mid-Holocene Green Sahara period

Putian Zhou, Zhengyao Lu, Jukka-Pekka Keskinen, Qiong Zhang, Juha Lento, Jianpu Bian, Twan van Noije, Philippe Le Sager, Veli-Matti Kerminen, Markku Kulmala, Michael Boy, and Risto Makkonen

Abstract. Paleo-proxy data indicates that a "Green Sahara" thrived in Northern Africa during the early- to mid-Holocene (MH; 11,000 to 5,000 years before present), characterized by more vegetation cover and reduced dust emission. Utilizing a state-of-the-art atmospheric chemical transport model TM5-MP, we assessed the changes in biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) emissions, dust emission and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) concentration in Northern Africa during this period relative to the pre-industrial (PI) period. Our simulations show that dust emissions reduced from 280.6 Tg a-1 in the PI to 26.8 Tg a-1 in the MH, agreeing with indications from eight marine sediment records in the Atlantic Ocean. The northward expansion in Northern Africa resulted in an increase in annual emissions of isoprene and monoterpenes during the MH, around 4.3 and 3.5 times higher than that in the PI period, respectively, causing 1.9 times increase in the SOA surface concentration. The enhanced SOA surface concentration and decreased sulfate surface concentration counteracted each other, leading to a 17 % increase in the cloud condensation nuclei at 0.2 % super saturation over Northern Africa. Our simulations provide consistent emission datasets of BVOCs, dust, and the SOA formation aligned with the northward shift of vegetation during the "Green Sahara" period, which could serve as a benchmark for MH aerosol input in future Earth system model simulation experiments.

Putian Zhou et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1520', Yonggang Liu, 22 Aug 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1520', Yong Sun, 25 Aug 2023

Putian Zhou et al.


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Short summary
A Green Sahara with enhanced rainfall and larger vegetation cover existed in the Northern Africa about 6000 years ago. The biosphere-atmosphere interactions are found to be critical to explain this wet period. Based on the modelled vegetation reconstruction data, we simulated the dust emissions and aerosol formation, which are key factors in the biosphere-atmosphere interactions. Our results also provided a benchmark of aerosol climotology for paleoclimate simulation experiments in the future.