A new analysis of Africas past and future climate shows that the Sahel region, which experienced catastrophic drought until rains returned in the 1990s, could experience wetter monsoons for decades to come. However, drought across southern Africa is projected to intensify further. Oceanic warming consistent with an increase in greenhouse gases appears to be a factor in these expected 21st-century changes to Africas monsoons.
James Hurrell of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) will present the findings on May 24 in New Orleans at the spring meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The study, conducted with Martin Hoerling (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), was supported by NOAA and the National Science Foundation, NCARs primary sponsor.
The analysis, which draws on 60 simulations of global climate from five computer models, provides new evidence linking drought in southern Africa to the warming of the Indian Ocean. However, it contradicts earlier studies that also connected the Sahelian drought of northern Africa to the Indian Ocean. Instead, the new results point to a late 20th-century cooling of the North Atlantic Ocean as having been key to Sahelian drought. A subsequent switch to North Atlantic warming, partly consistent with the impact of greenhouse gas increases, is the main factor behind the Sahels recent swing from drought to moist conditions, the researchers believe.
Anatta | EurekAlert!
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