The Water Cycle of the Mid-Holocene West African Monsoon: the Role of Vegetation and Dust Emission Changes

Abstract : During the mid‐Holocene (6 kyr BP), West Africa experienced a much stronger and geographically extensive monsoon than in the present day. Changes in orbital forcing, vegetation and dust emissions from the Sahara have been identified as key factors driving this intensification. Here, we analyse how the timing, origin and convergence of moisture fluxes contributing to the monsoonal precipitation changes under a range of scenarios: orbital forcing only; orbital and vegetation forcings (Green Sahara); orbital, vegetation and dust forcings (Green Sahara‐reduced dust). We further compare our results to a range of reconstructions of mid‐Holocene precipitation from palaeoclimate archives. The greening of the Sahara leads to a cyclonic water vapour flux anomaly over North Africa with an anomalous westerly flow bringing large amounts of moisture into the Sahel from the Atlantic Ocean. Changes in atmospheric dust under a vegetated Sahara shift the anomalous moisture advection pattern northwards, increasing both moisture convergence and precipitation recycling over the northern Sahel and Sahara and the associated precipitation during the boreal summer. During this season, under both the Green Sahara and Green Sahara‐reduced dust scenarios, local recycling in the Saharan domain exceeds that of the Sahel. This points to local recycling as an important factor modulating vegetation‐precipitation feedbacks and the impact of Saharan dust emissions. Our results also show that temperature and evapotranspiration over the Sahara in the mid‐Holocene are close to Sahelian pre‐industrial values. This suggests that pollen‐based paleoclimate reconstructions of precipitation during the Green Sahara period are likely not biased by possible large evapotranspiration changes in the region.
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Submitted on : Saturday, November 17, 2018 - 5:13:19 PM
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Gabriele Messori, Marco Gaetani, Qiang Zhang, Qiong Zhang, Francesco S.R. Pausata. The Water Cycle of the Mid-Holocene West African Monsoon: the Role of Vegetation and Dust Emission Changes. International Journal of Climatology, Wiley, 2019, 39 (4), pp.1927-1939. ⟨10.1002/joc.5924⟩. ⟨insu-01925780⟩

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