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Journal Articles Journal of Climate Year : 2017

Understanding the mechanisms behind the northward extension of the West African Monsoon during the Mid-Holocene

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Abstract

Understanding the West African monsoon (WAM) dynamics in the mid-Holocene (MH) is a crucial issue in climate modelling, because numerical models typically fail to reproduce the extensive precipitation suggested by proxy evidence. This discrepancy may be largely due to the assumption of both unrealistic land surface cover and atmospheric aerosol concentration. In this study, the MH environment is simulated in numerical experiments by imposing extensive vegetation over the Sahara and the consequent reduction in airborne dust concentration. A dramatic increase in precipitation is simulated across the whole of West Africa, up to the Mediterranean coast. This precipitation response is in better agreement with proxy data, in comparison with the case in which only changes in orbital forcing are considered. Results show a substantial modification of the monsoonal circulation, characterized by an intensification of large-scale deep convection through the entire Sahara, and a weakening and northward shift (~6.5°) of the African easterly jet. The greening of the Sahara also leads to a substantial reduction in African easterly wave activity and the associated precipitation. The reorganization of the regional atmospheric circulation is driven by the vegetation effect on radiative forcing and associated heat fluxes, with the reduction in dust concentration to enhance this response. The results for the WAM in the MH present important implications for understanding future climate scenarios in the region and in teleconnected areas, in the context of projected wetter conditions in West Africa.
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insu-01545606 , version 1 (27-06-2017)

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Marco Gaetani, Gabriele Messori, Qiong Zhang, Cyrille Flamant, Francesco S. R. Pausata. Understanding the mechanisms behind the northward extension of the West African Monsoon during the Mid-Holocene. Journal of Climate, 2017, 30 (19), pp.7621-7642. ⟨10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0299.1⟩. ⟨insu-01545606⟩
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