Contemporary Climate Change of the African Monsoon Systems

  • Kerry H. CookEmail author
  • Edward K. Vizy
Monsoons and Climate (Y Ming, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Monsoons and Climate


Purpose of Review

Our current understanding of current climate change in the West African, East African, and Congo Basin monsoon systems is reviewed. The detection of observed trends, the analysis of the physical processes of change, and model projections are discussed.

Recent Findings

An increase in Sahel precipitation has been associated with a summer intensification and northward shift of the West African monsoon system as a response to amplified warming over the Sahara. Declines in the boreal spring rains over East Africa, and in spring and summer rains in the Congo Basin, are also reported in the literature but with less corroboration through physical analysis and model projections. Confident analysis and accurate simulation are hampered by a relative scarcity of observations in these regions.


The West African monsoon system is trending to bring more precipitation to the Sahel in summer, and some is delivered through increasingly intense rainfall events. It is not yet clear whether recent trends observed in the East African and Congo Basin monsoon systems can be expected to persist as the global climate continues to warm. We cannot expect these monsoon systems to change linearly through the twenty-first century because, as the ocean basins warm at different rates and with different distributions, different forcing factors may become dominant.


Climate change Monsoons Tropical rainfall Sahel rainfall East African precipitation Congo Basin Climate prediction 



The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at The University of Texas at Austin provided database resources, and the Grid Analysis and Display System software (GrADS) developed at COLA/IGES was used for generating the figures. We also thank Dr. Richard Washington and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments which improved the paper.


Support from NSF Awards No. 1701520 and No. 1444505 is gratefully acknowledged.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

On behalf of both authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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