Future evolution of the Sahel precipitation zonal contrast in CESM1


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Monerie, Paul-Arthur and Sánchez Gómez, Emilia and Gaetani, Marco and Mohino Harris, Elsa and Dong, Buwen (2020) Future evolution of the Sahel precipitation zonal contrast in CESM1. Climate dynamics . ISSN 0930-7575

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00382-020-05417-w


The main focus of this study is the zonal contrast of the Sahel precipitation shown in the CMIP5 climate projections: precipitation decreases over the western Sahel (i.e., Senegal and western Mali) and increases over the central Sahel (i.e., eastern Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger). This zonal contrast in future precipitation change is a robust model response to climate change but sufers from a lack of an explanation. To this aim, we study the impact of current and future climate change on Sahel precipitation by using the Large Ensemble of the Community Earth System Model version 1 (CESM1). In CESM1, global warming leads to a strengthening of the zonal contrast, as shown by the diference between the 2060–2099 period (under a high emission scenario) and the 1960–1999 period (under the historical forcing). The zonal contrast is associated with dynamic shifts in the atmospheric circulation. We show that, in absence of a forced response, that is, when only accounting for internal climate variability, the zonal contrast is associated with the Pacifc and the tropical Atlantic oceans variability. However, future patterns in sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies are not necessary to explaining the projected strengthening of the zonal contrast. The mechanisms underlying the simulated changes are elucidated by analysing a set of CMIP5 idealised simulations. We show the increase in precipitation over the central Sahel to be mostly associated with the surface warming over northern Africa, which favour the displacement of the monsoon cell northwards. Over the western Sahel, the decrease in Sahel precipitation is associated with a southward shift of the monsoon circulation, and is mostly due to the warming of the SST. These two mechanisms allow explaining the zonal contrast in precipitation change.

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© The Author(s) 2020. E. M. were supported by the Spanish Project CGL2017-86415-R and B. D. by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) via the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS). We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. For CMIP, the US Department of Energy’s Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison provides coordinating support and led development of software infrastructure in partnership with the Global Organization for Earth System Science Portals. We acknowledge the CESM Large Ensemble Community Project and supercomputing resources provided by NSF/CISL/Yellowstone for providing the climate model outputs. The authors thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions.

Uncontrolled Keywords:West-African monsoon; Saharan heat low; Rainfall variability; Hydrological cycle; Robust responses; Climate-change; CMIP5; Projections; Moisture; Models
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Atmospheric physics
ID Code:62140
Deposited On:23 Sep 2020 09:39
Last Modified:23 Sep 2020 10:26

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