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Impact of Potential Large-Scale Irrigation on the West African Monsoon and Its Dependence on Location of Irrigated Area

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  • 1 Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, Singapore–Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alliance for Research and Technology, Singapore
  • | 2 Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
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Abstract

This study investigates the impact of potential large-scale irrigation on the West African monsoon using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology regional climate model (MRCM). A new irrigation module is implemented to assess the impact of location and scheduling of irrigation on rainfall distribution over West Africa. A control simulation (without irrigation) and eight sensitivity experiments (with irrigation) are performed and compared to discern the effects of irrigation location and scheduling. It is found that the irrigation effect on soil moisture could force significant changes in spatial distribution and magnitude of rainfall, depending on the latitudinal location of irrigation. In general, the large irrigation-induced surface cooling owing to anomalously wet soil tends to suppress moist convection and rainfall, which in turn induces local subsidence and low-level anticyclonic circulation. These local effects are dominated by a consistent reduction of local rainfall over the irrigated land, irrespective of its location. However, the remote response of rainfall distribution to irrigation exhibits a significant sensitivity to the latitudinal position of irrigation and the intraseasonal variation of supplied irrigation water. The low-level northeasterly airflow associated with an anticyclonic circulation centered over the irrigation area, induced at optimal location and timing, would enhance the extent of low-level convergence areas through interaction with the prevailing monsoon flow, leading to a significant increase in rainfall. As the location of the irrigation area is moved from the coast northward, the regional rainfall change exhibits a significant decrease first, then increases gradually to a maximum corresponding to irrigation centered around 20°N, before it declines again.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Eun-Soon Im, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, 1 CREATE Way, 09-03 CREATE Tower, 138602 Singapore. E-mail: eunsoon@smart.mit.edu

Abstract

This study investigates the impact of potential large-scale irrigation on the West African monsoon using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology regional climate model (MRCM). A new irrigation module is implemented to assess the impact of location and scheduling of irrigation on rainfall distribution over West Africa. A control simulation (without irrigation) and eight sensitivity experiments (with irrigation) are performed and compared to discern the effects of irrigation location and scheduling. It is found that the irrigation effect on soil moisture could force significant changes in spatial distribution and magnitude of rainfall, depending on the latitudinal location of irrigation. In general, the large irrigation-induced surface cooling owing to anomalously wet soil tends to suppress moist convection and rainfall, which in turn induces local subsidence and low-level anticyclonic circulation. These local effects are dominated by a consistent reduction of local rainfall over the irrigated land, irrespective of its location. However, the remote response of rainfall distribution to irrigation exhibits a significant sensitivity to the latitudinal position of irrigation and the intraseasonal variation of supplied irrigation water. The low-level northeasterly airflow associated with an anticyclonic circulation centered over the irrigation area, induced at optimal location and timing, would enhance the extent of low-level convergence areas through interaction with the prevailing monsoon flow, leading to a significant increase in rainfall. As the location of the irrigation area is moved from the coast northward, the regional rainfall change exhibits a significant decrease first, then increases gradually to a maximum corresponding to irrigation centered around 20°N, before it declines again.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Eun-Soon Im, Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, 1 CREATE Way, 09-03 CREATE Tower, 138602 Singapore. E-mail: eunsoon@smart.mit.edu
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