Modeling the impacts of reforestation on future climate in West Africa
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This study investigates the potential impacts of reforestation in West Africa on the projected regional climate in the near two decades (2031–2050) under the SRES A1B scenario. A regional climate model (RegCM3) forced with a global circulation model (ECHAM5) simulations was used for the study. The study evaluates the capability of the regional model in simulating the present-day climate over West Africa, projects the future climate over the region and investigates impacts of seven hypothetical reforestation options on the projected future climate. Three of these reforestation options assume zonal reforestation over West Africa (i.e., over the Sahel, Savanna and Guinea), while the other four assume random reforestation over Nigeria. With the elevated GHGs (A1B scenario), a warmer and drier climate is projected over West Africa in 2031–2050. The maximum warming (+2.5°C) and drying (−2 mm day−1) occur in the western part of the Sahel because the West Africa Monsoon (WAM) flow is stronger and deflects the cool moist air more eastward, thereby lowering the warming and drying in the eastern part. In the simulations, reforestation reduces the projected warming and drying over the reforested zones but increases them outside the zones because it influences the northward progression of WAM in summer. It reduces the speed of the flow by weakening the temperature gradient that drives the flow and by increasing the surface drag on the flow over the reforested zone. Hence, in summer, the reforestation delays the onset of monsoon flow in transporting cool moist air over the area located downwind of the reforested zone, consequently enhancing the projected warming and drying over the area. The impact of reforesting Nigeria is not limited to the country; while it lowers the warming over part of the country (and over Togo), it increases the warming over Chad and Cameroon. This study, therefore, suggests that using reforestation to mitigate the projected future climate change in West Africa could have both positive and negative impacts on the regional climate, reducing temperature in some places and increasing it in others. Hence, reforestation in West Africa requires a mutual agreement among the West African nations because the impacts of reforestation do not recognize political boundaries.
KeywordsMonsoon System West African Monsoon Rain Belt Monsoon Flow Projected Future Climate Change
The project was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation (NRF, South Africa), the International Science Program (ISP, Sweden) and the Ecological Fund Office (EFO, Nigeria). The third author was supported by the Alexandra von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn. Computing facility was provided by the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) in South Africa. Thanks also to the two anonymous reviewers whose comments significantly improved the quality of this manuscript.
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