The role of mesoscale convective systems in the diurnal cycle of rainfall and its seasonality over sub-Saharan Northern Africa



This study evaluates the role of MCSs in the total rainfall distribution as a function of season from a climatological perspective (1998–2014) over sub-Saharan northern Africa and examines how the diurnal cycle of rainfall changes with season. Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42V7 rainfall estimates and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts ERA-Interim reanalysis are used to evaluate the climatology. The percentages of the full TRMM precipitation delivered by MCSs have meridional structures in spring, fall and winter, ranging from 0 to 80% across sub-Saharan northern Africa, while the percentages are homogenous in summer (> 80%). The diurnal cycles of MCS-associated precipitation coincide with the full TRMM rainfall. Attributes of MCSs, including size, count, and intensity, vary synchronously with the diurnal cycle of rainfall. The diurnal peaks are classified into three categories: single afternoon peak, continuous afternoon peak, and nocturnal peak. Single afternoon peaks dominate in spring and fall while continuous afternoon and nocturnal peaks are more common in summer, indicating the seasonality of the diurnal cycle. The continuous afternoon peak combines rainfall from two system types—one locally-generated and one propagating. The seasonality of the diurnal cycle is related to the seasonality of MCS lifetimes, and propagation speeds and directions. The moisture component of the MSE profile contributes to the instability most in summer when convection is more frequent. Low-level temperature, which is related to surface warming and sensible heat fluxes, influences the instability more during winter and spring.


MCS Diurnal cycle of precipitation SAHEL rainfall African wave disturbances African easterly waves West Africa Moist static energy 



Support from NSF Award #1444505 is gratefully acknowledged. Dr. Gang Zhang provided much appreciated assistance as well.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of GeosciencesThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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