21 Aug 2023
 | 21 Aug 2023

Sharp increase of Saharan dust intrusions over the Western Mediterranean and Euro-Atlantic region in winters 2020–2022 and associated atmospheric circulation

Emilio Cuevas-Agulló, David Barriopedro, Rosa Delia García, Silvia Alonso-Pérez, Juan Jesús González-Alemán, Ernest Werner, David Suárez, Juan José Bustos, Gerardo García-Castrillo, Omaira García, África Barreto, and Sara Basart

Abstract. During the winters of the 2020–2022 period, several intense North African dust intrusions affected Europe. Some of them displayed a duration never recorded before. They were referred to as exceptional by several international operational and research institutions considering that wintertime is the season with minimum dust activity in the Mediterranean and Europe. These anomalous winter events with origin in North Africa largely affected western Mediterranean. The main objective of the present work is to analyse the atmospheric drivers (synoptic and large-scale environments) of wintertime (from January to March) dust events over the region covering North Africa, the Western Mediterranean and the Euro-Atlantic during the period 2003–2022. Overall, our results indicate large interannual variability over the study period. A dust catalogue of dust events identified by aerosols retrievals from satellite and aerosol reanalysis products shows a very irregular record and large differences between winter months. The analyses demonstrate a positive anomaly in dust concentration and maximum altitude during the dust events of 2020–2022 in comparison with those of previous years (2003–2019). Winter dust events over western Mediterranean are associated with enhanced blocking activity over the Euro-Atlantic sector, which favours the obstruction of the westerlies and the occurrence of cut-off lows at subtropical latitudes. However, these high-pressure systems can exhibit a large variety of configurations, including meridional dipole blocking patterns with poleward shifted jets or Mediterranean subtropical ridges with an intensified mid-latitude jet. The former was more frequent during the reference 2003–2019 period, whereas the latter was relatively common during the anomalous 2020–2022 period.

Emilio Cuevas-Agulló et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1749', Diana Francis, 22 Aug 2023
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1749', Anonymous Referee #1, 04 Oct 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1749', Anonymous Referee #2, 14 Nov 2023

Emilio Cuevas-Agulló et al.

Emilio Cuevas-Agulló et al.


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Short summary
In 2020–2022, several international agencies and media reported severe winter dust intrusions in Europe. Although winter dust intrusions are more common in the eastern Mediterranean, these events largely affected the western Mediterranean and Canary Islands. The present work provides a catalogue of dust events over the western Mediterranean region and describes their characteristics during the climatological (2003–2019) and recent anomalous (2020–2022) periods.