Characterization of the impact of land degradation in the Sahel on the West African monsoon using an ensemble of climate models from the WAMME project

Monday, 15 December 2014: 11:44 AM
Aaron Anthony Boone1, Yongkang Xue2, Comer Ruth3, Fernando De Sales2, Samson M Hagos4, Sarith P P Mahanama5, Kathleen Schiro6, Guoqiong Song7, Guiling Wang8, Randal D Koster9 and Carlos R Mechoso10, (1)Météo-France Toulouse, Toulouse Cedex 01, France, (2)University of California Los Angeles, Department of Geography, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (3)UK MetOffice, Climate Applications, Exeter, United Kingdom, (4)Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States, (5)NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (6)University of California Los Angeles, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (7)University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (8)University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, United States, (9)NASA Goddard SFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (10)UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, United States
There is increasing evidence from numerical studies that anthropogenic land-use and land-cover changes (LULCC) can potentially induce significant variations on the regional scale climate. However, the magnitude of these variations likely depends on the local strength of the coupling between the surface and the atmosphere, the magnitude of the surface biophysical changes and how the key processes linking the surface with the atmosphere are parameterized within a particular model framework. One key hot-spot which has received considerable attention is the Sahelian region of West Africa, for which numerous studies have reported a significant increase in anthropogenic pressure on the already limited natural resources in this region, notably in terms of land use conversion and degradation. Thus, there is a pressing need to better understand the impacts of potential land degradation on the West African Monsoon (WAM) system.

One of the main goals of the West African Monsoon Modeling andEvaluation project phase 2 (WAMMEII) is to provide basic understandingof LULCC on the regional climate over West Africa, and to evaluate thesensitivity of the seasonal variability of the WAM to LULCC. Theprescribed LULCC is based on recent 50 year period which represents amaximum feasible degradation scenario. In the current study, the LULCCis applied to five state of the art global climate models over afive-year period. The imposed LULCC results in a model-average 5-7%increase in surface albedo: the corresponding lower surface netradiation mainly results in a significant reduction in surfaceevaporation (upwards of 1 mm per day over a large part of the Sahel)which leads to less convective heating of the atmosphere, lowermoisture convergence, increased subsidence and reduced cloud coverover the LULCC zone. The overall impact can be characterized as asubstantial drought effect resulting in a reduction in annual rainfallof 20-40% in the Sahel and a southward shift of the monsoon. In broadagreement with previous studies, the impact of degradation on theregional climate is found to be variable among the different coupledmodels, however, the signal is stronger and a more consistent betweenthe models here which is likely related to our emphasis onprioritizing a consistent impact on the biophysical properties of thesurface.