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Temperature Variability over Africa

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  • 1 University of South Florida, Department of Geography, Environment, and Planning, Tampa, Florida
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Abstract

The variation of near-surface air temperature anomalies in Africa between 1979 and 2010 is investigated primarily using Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) total lower-tropospheric temperature data from the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) datasets. Significant increasing temperature trends were found in each of the following regions examined: all of Africa, Northern Hemisphere Africa, Southern Hemisphere Africa, tropical Africa, and subtropical Africa. Considering the months June–August, regions in both North and South Africa saw significantly warmer temperatures in the most recent period 1995–2010 than in the period 1979–94. However, for the months December–February, the significant warming was concentrated in the north of Africa. When the two most recent decades are compared with the period 1979–90, warming is observed over these same regions and is concentrated in the most recent decade, from 2001 to 2010. The results presented here indicate that the climate change over Africa is likely not predominantly a result of variations in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (a teleconnection that has been previously shown to affect climate in some parts of Africa). Instead the climate changes likely occur owing to other natural variability of the climate and/or may be a result of human activity. However, even without ascertaining the specific causes, the most important finding in this work is to demonstrate that a significant rise in African temperatures occurred between 1979 and 2010.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jennifer M. Collins, Dept. of Geography, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33612. E-mail: collinsjm@usf.edu

Abstract

The variation of near-surface air temperature anomalies in Africa between 1979 and 2010 is investigated primarily using Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) total lower-tropospheric temperature data from the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) datasets. Significant increasing temperature trends were found in each of the following regions examined: all of Africa, Northern Hemisphere Africa, Southern Hemisphere Africa, tropical Africa, and subtropical Africa. Considering the months June–August, regions in both North and South Africa saw significantly warmer temperatures in the most recent period 1995–2010 than in the period 1979–94. However, for the months December–February, the significant warming was concentrated in the north of Africa. When the two most recent decades are compared with the period 1979–90, warming is observed over these same regions and is concentrated in the most recent decade, from 2001 to 2010. The results presented here indicate that the climate change over Africa is likely not predominantly a result of variations in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (a teleconnection that has been previously shown to affect climate in some parts of Africa). Instead the climate changes likely occur owing to other natural variability of the climate and/or may be a result of human activity. However, even without ascertaining the specific causes, the most important finding in this work is to demonstrate that a significant rise in African temperatures occurred between 1979 and 2010.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Jennifer M. Collins, Dept. of Geography, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33612. E-mail: collinsjm@usf.edu
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