Climate Dynamics

, Volume 47, Issue 11, pp 3547–3573 | Cite as

The regional impact of Land-Use Land-cover Change (LULCC) over West Africa from an ensemble of global climate models under the auspices of the WAMME2 project

  • Aaron Anthony Boone
  • Yongkang Xue
  • Fernando De Sales
  • Ruth E. Comer
  • Samson Hagos
  • Sarith Mahanama
  • Kathleen Schiro
  • Guoqiong Song
  • Guiling Wang
  • S. Li
  • Carlos R. Mechoso


The population of the Sahel region of West Africa has approximately doubled in the past 50 years, and could potentially double again by the middle of this century. This has led to the northward expansion of agricultural areas at the expense of natural savanna, leading to widespread land use -land cover change (LULCC). Because there is strong evidence of significant surface-atmosphere coupling in this region, one of the main goals of the West African Monsoon Modeling and Evaluation project phase II is to provide basic understanding of LULCC on the regional climate, and to evaluate the sensitivity of the seasonal variability of the West African Monsoon to LULCC. The prescribed LULCC is based on the changes from 1950 through 1990, representing a maximum feasible degradation scenario in the past half century. It is applied to 5 state of the art global climate models (GCMs) over a 6-year simulation period. Multiple GCMs are used because the magnitude of the impact of LULCC depends on model-dependent coupling strength between the surface and the overlying atmosphere, the magnitude of the surface biophysical changes, and how the key processes linking the surface with the atmosphere are parameterized within a particular model framework. Land cover maps and surface parameters may vary widely among models; therefore a special effort was made to impose consistent biogeophysical responses of surface parameters to LULCC using a simple experimental setup. The prescribed LULCC corresponds to degraded vegetation conditions, which mainly cause increases in the Bowen ratio and decreases in the surface net radiation, and result in a significant reduction in surface evaporation (upwards of 1 mm day−1 over a large part of the Sahel). This, in turn, mainly leads to less moisture convergence and precipitation over the LULCC zone. The overall impact is a rainfall reduction with every model, which ranges across models from 4 to 25 % averaged over the Sahel, and a southward shift of the rainfall peak in three of the five models which evokes a precipitation dipole pattern which is consistent with the observed pattern for dry climate anomalies over this region. The African Easterly Jet shifts equator-ward, although the strength of this change varies considerably among the models. In most of the models, the main factor causing diabatic cooling of the upper troposphere and enhanced subsidence over the region of LULCC is the reduction of convective heating rates linked to reduced latent heat flux and moisture flux convergence. In broad agreement with previous studies, the impact of degradation on the regional climate is found to vary among the different models, however, the signal is stronger and more consistent between the models here than in previous inter-comparison projects. This is likely related to our emphasis on prioritizing a consistent impact of LULCC on the surface biophysical properties.


African monsoon Land use land cover change Land degradation Climate simulations Land surface models Land–atmosphere coupling 



This study was supported by the French component of AMMA. Based on French initiative, AMMA was built by an international scientific group and is currently funded by a large number of agencies, especially from France, UK, US and Africa. It has been beneficiary of a major financial contribution from the European Community’s Sixth Framework Research Programme. Detailed information on scientific coordination and funding is available on the AMMA International website The authors acknowledge the ESPRI/IPSL database team for hosting the WAMME2 workspace within the framework of the AMMA database, and to K. Ramage, S. Bouffies-Cloche, and L. Fleury for their kind assistance with the WAMME2 database. We wish to acknowledge comments by R. Koster. R. Comer’s contribution was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The WAMME activity and analysis are supported by U.S. NSF Grants AGS-1115506 and AGS-1419526.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Anthony Boone
    • 1
  • Yongkang Xue
    • 2
  • Fernando De Sales
    • 7
  • Ruth E. Comer
    • 4
  • Samson Hagos
    • 5
  • Sarith Mahanama
    • 6
  • Kathleen Schiro
    • 2
  • Guoqiong Song
    • 2
  • Guiling Wang
    • 3
  • S. Li
    • 2
  • Carlos R. Mechoso
    • 2
  1. 1.CNRM UMR 3589Météo-France/CNRSToulouseFrance
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  4. 4.Met Office Hadley CentreExeterUK
  5. 5.Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA
  6. 6.SSAI, Lanham, MD, and Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA
  7. 7.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA

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