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Influence of initial soil moisture in a regional climate model study over West Africa - Part 1: Impact on the climate mean

Abstract : The impact of soil moisture initial conditions on the mean climate over West Africa was examined using the latest version of the regional climate model of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (RegCM4) at a 25 km horizontal resolution. The soil moisture reanalysis of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) reanalysis of the 20th century (ERA-20C) was used to initialize the control experiment, while its minimum and maximum values over the entire domain were used to establish the respective initial dry and wet soil moisture conditions (hereafter referred to as dry and wet experiments, respectively). For the respective control, wet and dry experiments, an ensemble of five runs from June to September was performed. In each experiment, we analyzed the two idealized simulations most sensitive to the dry and wet soil moisture initial conditions. The impact of soil moisture initial conditions on precipitation in West Africa is linear over the Central and West Sahel regions, where dry (wet) experiments lead to a rainfall decrease (increase). The strongest precipitation increase is found over the West Sahel for wet experiments, with a maximum change value of approximately 40 %, whereas the strongest precipitation decrease is found for dry experiments over the Central Sahel, with a peak change of approximately −4 %. The sensitivity of soil moisture initial conditions can persist for 3-4 months (90-120 d) depending on the region. However, the influence on precipitation is no longer than 1 month (between 15 and 30 d). The strongest temperature decrease is located over the Central and West Sahel, with a maximum change of approximately −1.5 °C in wet experiments, whereas the strongest temperature increase is found over the Guinea coast and Central Sahel for the dry experiments, with a maximum change of around 0.6 °C. A significant impact of soil moisture initial conditions on the surface energy fluxes is noted: in the wet (dry) experiments, a cooling (warming) of the surface temperature is associated with a decrease (increase) in sensible heat flux, an increase (decrease) in latent heat flux and a decrease (increase) in the boundary layer depth. Part 2 of this study (Koné et al., 2022) investigates the influence of soil moisture initial conditions on climate extremes.
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Brahima Koné, Arona Diedhiou, Adama Diawara, Sandrine Anquetin, N'Datchoh Evelyne Touré, et al.. Influence of initial soil moisture in a regional climate model study over West Africa - Part 1: Impact on the climate mean. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, European Geosciences Union, 2022, 26, pp.711-730. ⟨10.5194/hess-26-711-2022⟩. ⟨insu-03706396⟩

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