Future impacts of global warming and reforestation on drought patterns over West Africa
This study investigates how a large-scale reforestation in Savanna (8–12°N, 20°W–20°E) could affect drought patterns over West Africa in the future (2031–2060) under the RCP4.5 scenario. Simulations from two regional climate models (RegCM4 and WRF) were analyzed for the study. The study first evaluated the performance of both RCMs in simulating the present-day climate and then applied the models to investigate the future impacts of global warming and reforestation on the drought patterns. The simulated and observed droughts were characterized with the Standardized Precipitation and Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), and the drought patterns were classified using a Self-organizing Map (SOM) technique. The models capture essential features in the seasonal rainfall and temperature fields (including the Saharan Heat Low), but struggle to reproduce the onset and retreat of the West African Monsoon as observed. Both RCMs project a warmer climate (about 1–2 °C) over West Africa in the future. They do not reach a consensus on future change in rainfall, but they agree on a future increase in frequency of severe droughts (by about 2 to 9 events per decade) over the region. They show that reforestation over the Savanna could reduce the future warming by 0.1 to 0.8 °C and increase the precipitation by 0.8 to 1.2 mm per day. However, the impact of reforestation on the frequency of severe droughts is twofold. While reforestation decreases the droughts frequency (by about 1–2 events per decade) over the Savanna and Guinea coast, it increases droughts frequency (by 1 event per decade) over the Sahel, especially in July to September. The results of this study have application in using reforestation to mitigate impacts of climate change in West Africa.
KeywordsWest African monsoon Droughts SPEI Reforestation Self-organizing maps WRF RegCM
This study was supported by the West African Service Center for climate change and Land use Adapted (WASCAL). Computation supports were provided by the Climate Sciences Analysis Group (CSAG, UCT) and the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC, South Africa). The African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD) supported the first author through the ISACIP project. The second author was supported by the National Research Foundation in South Africa.
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