Abstract. The boreal summer dry season length is reported to have been increasing in the last three decades over the Congo rainforest, which is the second-largest rainforest in the world. In some years, the wet season in boreal autumn starts early while in others it arrives late. The mechanism behind such a change in wet season onset date has not been investigated yet. Using multi-satellite datasets, we discover that the variation of aerosols in dry season plays a major role in determining the subsequent wet season onset. Dry season aerosol optical depth (AOD) influences the strength of the southern African easterly jet (AEJ-S) and thus the onset of the wet season. Higher AOD associated with a higher dust mass flux reduces the net downward shortwave radiation and decreases the surface temperature over the Congo rainforest region, leading to a stronger meridional temperature gradient between the rainforest and the Kalahari Desert as early as in June. The latter, in turn, strengthens the AEJ-S, sets in an early and a stronger easterly flow, leads to a stronger equatorward convergence and an early onset of the wet season in late August to early September. The mean AOD in the dry season over the region is strongly correlated (r =0.7) with the timing of the subsequent wet season onset. Conversely, in low AOD years, the onset of the wet season over the Congo basin is delayed to mid-October.
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