Assessment of uncertainties in the response of the African monsoon precipitation to land use change simulated by a regional model
Land use and land cover (LULC) over Africa have changed substantially over the last 60 years and this change has been proposed to affect monsoon circulation and precipitation. This study examines the uncertainties of model simulated response in the African monsoon system and Sahel precipitation due to LULC change using a set of regional model simulations with different combinations of land surface and cumulus parameterization schemes. Although the magnitude of the response covers a broad range of values, most of the simulations show a decline in Sahel precipitation due to the expansion of pasture and croplands at the expense of trees and shrubs and an increase in surface air temperature. The relationship between the model responses to LULC change and the climatologists of the control simulations is also examined. Simulations that are climatologically too dry or too wet compared to observations and reanalyses have weak response to land use change because they are in moisture or energy limited regimes respectively. The ones that lie in between have stronger response to the LULC changes, showing a more significant role in land–atmosphere interactions. Much of the change in precipitation is related to changes in circulation, particularly to the response of the intensity and latitudinal position of the African Easterly Jet, which varies with the changes in meridional surface temperature gradients. The study highlights the need for measurements of the surface fluxes across the meridional cross-section of the Sahel to evaluate models and thereby allowing human impacts such as land use change on the monsoon to be projected more realistically.