Future impacts of global warming and reforestation on drought patterns over West Africa

Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

West African monsoon Droughts SPEI Reforestation Self-organizing maps WRF RegCM 

Supplementary material

704_2017_2209_MOESM1_ESM.docx (80 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 79 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Climate Systems Analysis Group, Department of Environmental and Geographical ScienceUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land UseFederal University of TechnologyAkureNigeria
  3. 3.Agence Nationale de la Météorologie (ANAM)OuagadougouBurkina Faso

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