Projected Changes in the Terrestrial and Oceanic Regulators of Climate Variability Across Sub-Saharan Africa

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 08:00
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Despite their implications for climate change projections, extreme events, and climate predictability, future changes in the sign and magnitude of land-atmosphere interactions have received insufficient attention. The potential for the physiological effect of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to alter the strength of land-atmosphere coupling through modifications in heat, moisture, and momentum exchange remains poorly understood. By applying the Stepwise Generalized Equilibrium Feedback Assessment (SGEFA), the current study focuses on projected changes in the terrestrial and oceanic regulators of climate variability across sub-Saharan Africa, including the Sahel, Horn of Africa (HOA), West African monsoon (WAM) region, and Congo, by the late 21st century based on the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase Five (CMIP5) global climate models. The poverty-stricken sub-Saharan nations are characterized by rapid population growth, reliance on rainfed agriculture, and thus high socio-economic vulnerability to hydrological variability. Projected changes include the greatest warming across the Sahel, most pronounced hydrological and land surface changes across the HOA, a more persistent monsoon, intensified HOA short rains, and enhanced greening across the HOA. The oceans are projected to become weaker regulators of sub-Saharan African climate later this century, most notably for air temperature. In terms of terrestrial forcings, the atmosphere is projected to become increasing decoupled from vegetation forcings over sub-Saharan Africa, especially for evapotranspiration and outgoing longwave radiation, but increasingly coupled to soil moisture forcings across the Congo.

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