Polar jet circulation changes bring Sahara dust to Arctic, increasing temperatures, melting ice

October 10, 2018

Fast Facts

Abu Dhabi, October 4, 2018: Research scientists at NYU Abu Dhabi have identified a new mechanism by which warm dust travels from the Sahara Desert to the Arctic Circle, which has been proven to affect rising temperatures and ice melt in Greenland.

Their findings highlight the role that the polar jet and associated atmospheric circulation plays in the transport of mineral dust from the Sahara desert to the Arctic across eastern side of the North Atlantic Ocean.

A meandering polar jet was discovered as responsible for both the emission and transport of dust from Northwest Africa to the Arctic. The emission has been linked to an intense Saharan cyclone that formed in early April 2011, which was caused by the intrusion of an upper-level trough emanating from the polar jet.

The study has found that atmospheric circulation of this nature enables the transport of dust, warm and moist air masses from subtropics and mid-latitudes to the Arctic, where approximately half of the warming is now being attributed to increased moisture and heat fluxes transported to the region.

The warm and moist air masses accompanying the Saharan dust caused a rise in surface temperature of 10C for more than three consecutive days upon reaching southeastern Greenland. Subsequent temperature observations detected increased melting within the ice across this same area.

"The polar jet stream has been identified as the main driver for such events leading to the transport of large amount of dust to high-latitudes," said Diana Francis, atmospheric scientist at NYU Abu Dhabi and lead research scientist in this study.

"If the polar jet is set to slow more frequently due to the changes in the Arctic climate system and to the Arctic Amplification, such events are expected to become more frequent," Francis added.

The newly discovered poleward route is considered the most substantial in terms of dust load import into the Arctic, due to the minimal geographical distance between the origin point and the destination.

'The impact of dust deposition on ice in Greenland, such as darkening ice and formation of algae on ice or cryoconite, as well as the link between Saharan dust transport and the Arctic heat dome must be investigated further in collaboration with scientists in UK and Germany' Francis emphasized.
-end-
NYU Abu Dhabi Research Scientist Clare Eayrs was one of the contributors to this study, in addition to other international co-authors from France and the US.

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and science campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly-selective liberal arts, engineering and science curriculum with a world center for advanced research and scholarship enabling its students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity's shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi's high-achieving students have come from 115 nations and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and student's opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.

Rubenstein Associates, Inc.

Related Arctic Articles from Brightsurf:

Archive of animal migration in the Arctic
A global archive with movement data collected across three decades logs changes in the behaviour of Arctic animals

The Arctic is burning in a whole new way
'Zombie fires' and burning of fire-resistant vegetation are new features driving Arctic fires -- with strong consequences for the global climate -- warn international fire scientists in a commentary published in Nature Geoscience.

Warming temperatures are driving arctic greening
As Arctic summers warm, Earth's northern landscapes are changing. Using satellite images to track global tundra ecosystems over decades, a new study found the region has become greener, as warmer air and soil temperatures lead to increased plant growth.

Arctic transitioning to a new climate state
The fast-warming Arctic has started to transition from a predominantly frozen state into an entirely different climate with significantly less sea ice, warmer temperatures, and more rain, according to a comprehensive new study of Arctic conditions.

New depth map of the Arctic Ocean
An international team of researchers has published the most detailed submarine map of the Artic Ocean.

Where are arctic mosquitoes most abundant in Greenland and why?
Bzz! It's mosquito season in Greenland. June and July is when Arctic mosquitoes (Aedes nigripes) are in peak abundance, buzzing about the tundra.

What happens in Vegas, may come from the Arctic?
Ancient climate records from Leviathan Cave, located in the southern Great Basin, show that Nevada was even hotter and drier in the past than it is today, and that one 4,000-year period in particular may represent a true, ''worst-case'' scenario picture for the Southwest and the Colorado River Basin -- and the millions of people who rely on its water supply.

Arctic Ocean changes driven by sub-Arctic seas
New research explores how lower-latitude oceans drive complex changes in the Arctic Ocean, pushing the region into a new reality distinct from the 20th-century norm.

Arctic Ocean 'regime shift'
Stanford scientists find the growth of phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean has increased 57 percent over just two decades, enhancing its ability to soak up carbon dioxide.

Spider baby boom in a warmer Arctic
Climate change leads to longer growing seasons in the Arctic.

Read More: Arctic News and Arctic Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.