Since the end of the 1960s West Africa has continuously been suffering hard drought. The rainfall deficit for the 1970s and 1980s, calculated to compare with the 1950s and 1960s, thus reached as high as 50% over the northern part of the Sahel. The hydrological cycle as a whole is affected by this drought, which results in serious consequences for agriculture and food security.
IRD researchers, aiming to understand the mechanisms behind this situation, examined rainfall data from 1950 to 1990. Two sub-periods emerge : a wet one (1951-1969), followed by a dry one (1970-1990). This finding led them to modify drastically the classic model which presents the monsoon as a process that unfurls in a continuous sweep from South to North. Two rainfall dynamics regimes are in evidence, distinct in time and in space, separated by a sharp transition. The mean date for this, a jump heralding the monsoon onset, is around 22 June, which proved to be highly constant for both the wet and the dry sub-periods.
The proposed model predicts that the first monsoon phase starts off from the Atlantic coast in February and propagates steadily northwards. By May it has reached the central Sahel (13°N longitude, Niamey). After a period of stabilization, rainfall abruptly becomes much heavier. It touches the whole Sahel zone simultaneously. A short dry season then appears on the coast before a second rainy season arises there from September, linked to the retreat of the monsoon towards the South.
Marie-Lise Sabrie | alfa
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy