Investigating the Impacts of Surface Temperature Anomalies Due to Wildfires in Northern Sub-Saharan Africa

Friday, 19 December 2014
Trisha Gabbert1, Charles M Ichoku2, Toshihisa Matsui2,3 and William Joseph Capehart4, (1)South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, SD, United States, (2)NASA Goddard Space Flight Ctr, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (3)Earth Systems Interdisciplinary Center, College Park, MD, United States, (4)South Dakota Sch Mines & Tech, Rapid City, SD, United States
The northern Sub-Saharan African region (NSSA) is an area of intense study due to the recent severe droughts that have dire consequences on the population, which relies mostly on rainfed agriculture for its food supply. This region’s weather and hydrologic cycle are very complex and are dependent on the West African Monsoon. Different regional processes affect the West African Monsoon cycle and variability. One of the areas of current investigation is the water cycle response to the variability of land surface characteristics. Land surface characteristics are often altered in NSSA due to agricultural practices, grazing, and the fires that occur during the dry season. To better understand the effects of biomass burning on the hydrologic cycle of the sub-Saharan environment, an interdisciplinary team sponsored by NASA is analyzing potential feedback mechanisms due to the fires. As part of this research, this study focuses on the effects of land surface changes, particularly albedo and skin temperature, that are influenced by biomass burning. Surface temperature anomalies can influence the initiation of convective rainfall and surface albedo is linked to the absorption of solar radiation. To capture the effects of fire perturbations on the land surface, NASA’s Unified Weather and Research Forecasting (NU-WRF) model coupled with NASA’s Land Information System (LIS) is being used to simulate some of the fire-induced surface temperature anomalies and other environmental processes. In this presentation, we will report the strategy for these simulations, and show some preliminary results.