Climate Dynamics

, Volume 23, Issue 7–8, pp 791–802 | Cite as

Soil feedback drives the mid-Holocene North African monsoon northward in fully coupled CCSM2 simulations with a dynamic vegetation model

  • Samuel Levis
  • Gordon B. Bonan
  • Céline Bonfils


We explore climate-vegetation interactions in mid-Holocene North Africa with a suite of community climate system model (CCSM2) simulations. The CCSM includes synchronously coupled atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, land, and vegetation models. The CCSM’s present-day precipitation for North Africa compares well with simulations of other models and observations. Mid-Holocene data reveal a wetter and greener Sahara compared to the present. The CCSM exhibits a greater, closer to the expected, precipitation increase than other models, and in response, grasses advance from 18.75° to 22.5°N in much of North Africa. Precipitation is enhanced locally by the northward advance of grasses, but suppressed regionally mainly due to an insufficient albedo decrease with the expansion of vegetation. Prior studies have always lowered the surface albedo with the expansion of vegetation in North Africa. In the CCSM’s mid-Holocene simulations, the albedo decreases more because wetter soils are simulated darker than drier soils than due to expanding vegetation. These results isolate albedo as the key ingredient in obtaining a positive precipitation-vegetation feedback in North Africa. Two additional simulations support this conclusion. In the first simulation, the desert’s sandy soil textures are changed to loam to represent increased organic matter. Soil water retention and grass cover increase; albedo decreases somewhat. Precipitation responds with a small, yet widespread, increase. In the second simulation, a darker soil color is prescribed for this region. Now the monsoon advances north about 4°. These results illustrate a North African monsoon highly sensitive to changes in surface albedo and less sensitive to changes in evapotranspiration.


Surface Albedo Arabian Peninsula Community Climate System Model Vegetation Feedback Soil Albedo 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Dr. Martin Claussen and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. The National Science Foundation sponsors the National Center for Atmospheric Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel Levis
    • 1
  • Gordon B. Bonan
    • 1
  • Céline Bonfils
    • 2
  1. 1.Terrestrial Sciences Section, Climate and Global Dynamics DivisionNational Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences CenterUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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