TITLE

A Nonlinear Response of Sahel Rainfall to Atlantic Warming

AUTHOR(S)
Neupane, Naresh; Cook, Kerry H.
PUB. DATE
September 2013
SOURCE
Journal of Climate;Sep2013, Vol. 26 Issue 18, p7080
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
The response over West Africa to uniform warming of the Atlantic Ocean is analyzed using idealized simulations with a regional climate model. With warming of 1 and 1.5 K, rainfall rates increase by 30%-50% over most of West Africa. With Atlantic warming of 2 K and higher, coastal precipitation increases but Sahel rainfall decreases substantially. This nonlinear response in Sahel rainfall is the focus of this analysis. Atlantic warming is accompanied by decreases in low-level geopotential heights in the Gulf of Guinea and in the large-scale meridional geopotential height gradient. This leads to easterly wind anomalies in the central Sahel. With Atlantic warming below 2 K, these easterly anomalies support moisture transport from the Gulf of Guinea and precipitation increases. With Atlantic warming over 2 K, the easterly anomalies reverse the westerly flow over the Sahel. The resulting dry air advection into the Sahel reduces precipitation. Increased low-level moisture provides moist static energy to initiate convection with Atlantic warming at 1.5 K and below, while decreased moisture and stable thermal profiles suppress convection with additional warming. In all simulations, the southerly monsoon flow onto the Guinean coast is maintained and precipitation in that region increases. The relevance of these results to the global warming problem is limited by the focus on Atlantic warming alone. However, confident prediction of climate change requires an understanding of the physical processes of change, and this paper contributes to that goal.
ACCESSION #
90147421

 

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