Impacts of dust reduction on the northward expansion of the African monsoon during the Green Sahara period
The West African Monsoon (WAM) is crucial for the socio-economic stability of millions of people living in the Sahel. Severe droughts have ravaged the region in the last three decades of the 20th century, highlighting the need for a better understanding of the WAM dynamics. One of the most dramatic changes in the West African Monsoon (WAM) occurred between 15000-5000 yr BP, when increased summer rainfall led to the so-called ;Green Sahara; and to a reduction in dust emissions from the region. However, model experiments are unable to fully reproduce the intensification and geographical expansion of the WAM during this period, even when vegetation over the Sahara is considered. Here, we use a fully coupled simulation for 6000 yr BP (Mid-Holocene) in which prescribed Saharan vegetation and dust concentrations are changed in turn. A closer agreement with proxy records is obtained only when both the Saharan vegetation changes and dust decrease are taken into account. The dust reduction strengthens the vegetation-albedo feedback, extending the monsoon's northern limit approximately 500 km further than the vegetation-change case only. We therefore conclude that accounting for changes in Saharan dust loadings is essential for improving model simulations of the WAM during the Mid-Holocene.