1Energy, Environment and Water Research Centre, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus
2Earth System Physics Section, International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy
3Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Hahn-Meitnerweg 1, 55128 Mainz, Germany
4King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Abstract. Airborne desert dust influences radiative transfer, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, as well as nutrient transport and deposition. It directly and indirectly affects climate on regional and global scales. Two versions of a parameterization scheme to compute desert dust emissions are incorporated into the atmospheric chemistry general circulation model EMAC (ECHAM5/MESSy2.41 Atmospheric Chemistry). One uses a globally uniform soil particle size distribution, whereas the other explicitly accounts for different soil textures worldwide. We have tested these two versions and investigated the sensitivity to input parameters, using remote sensing data from the Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) and dust concentrations and deposition measurements from the AeroCom dust benchmark database (and others). The two versions are shown to produce similar atmospheric dust loads in the N-African region, while they deviate in the Asian, Middle Eastern and S-American regions. The dust outflow from Africa over the Atlantic Ocean is accurately simulated by both schemes, in magnitude, location and seasonality. Approximately 70% of the modelled annual deposition data and 70–75% of the modelled monthly aerosol optical depth (AOD) in the Atlantic Ocean stations lay in the range 0.5 to 2 times the observations for all simulations. The two versions have similar performance, even though the total annual source differs by ~50%, which underscores the importance of transport and deposition processes (being the same for both versions). Even though the explicit soil particle size distribution is considered more realistic, the simpler scheme appears to perform better in several locations. This paper discusses the differences between the two versions of the dust emission scheme, focusing on their limitations and strengths in describing the global dust cycle and suggests possible future improvements.