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Rosalind Cornforth, Douglas J. Parker, Mariane Diop-Kane, Andreas H. Fink, Jean-Philippe Lafore, Arlene Laing, Ernest Afiesimama, Jim Caughey, Aida Diongue-Niang, Abdou Kassimou, Peter Lamb, Benjamin Lamptey, Zilore Mumba, Ifeanyi Nnodu, Jerome Omotosho, Steve Palmer, Patrick Parrish, Leon-Guy Razafindrakoto, Wassila Thiaw, Chris Thorncroft, and Adrian Tompkins

Abstract

Bridging the gap between rapidly moving scientific research and specific forecasting tools, Meteorology of Tropical West Africa: The Forecasters’ Handbook gives unprecedented access to the latest science for the region’s forecasters, researchers, and students and combines this with pragmatic approaches to forecasting. It is set to change the way tropical meteorology is learned and will serve to drive demand for new forecasting tools. The Forecasters’ Handbook builds upon the legacy of the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis (AMMA) project, making the latest science applicable to forecasting in the region. By bringing together, at the outset, researchers and forecasters from across the region, and linking to applications, user communities, and decision-makers, The Forecasters’ Handbook provides a template for finding much needed solutions to critical issues such as building resilience to weather hazards and climate change in West Africa.

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Rahul S. Todmal

Abstract

In the prevailing climate change scenario, to cope with drought, it is necessary to understand the characteristics of meteorological droughts in water-scarce regions to formulate judicial plans for the utilization of water resources. The present investigation, therefore, endeavored to assess the intensity and frequency of droughts over the five semiarid river basins in Maharashtra during the past (1980–2013) and future (2015–50). The study was carried out with the application of standardized precipitation index (SPI) methodology. The agricultural and satellite [normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)] data were analyzed to understand the effects of meteorological droughts. Although the study area experienced three severe rainfall droughts in 1985/86, 2002/03, and 2011/12, higher frequency of low-intensity droughts is observed, particularly after 2000. The estimation suggests occurrence of moderate, severe, and extreme droughts once in 6, 28, and 50 years, respectively. Among the selected basins, the Agrani, the Karha, and the Man are expected to experience intense droughts and hence require special attention in drought management. The study also highlights that El Niño events considerably retard the monsoon rainfall. However, the occurrence of the positive phase of the Indian Ocean dipole in the El Niño years reduces the intensity of droughts. As agricultural productivity and cropped areas heavily depend on the monsoon rainfall, the meteorological droughts result in agricultural droughts. Moreover, the future warming (by 1.02°C) over the study area is very likely to exacerbate the meteorological droughts (estimated to occur in the 2030s) and increase the agricultural water demand, further adding to an already difficult water management challenge in the study basins.

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Thomas Engel, Andreas H. Fink, Peter Knippertz, Gregor Pante, and Jan Bliefernicht

Abstract

Two extreme, high-impact events of heavy rainfall and severe floods in West African urban areas (Ouagadougou on 1 September 2009 and Dakar on 26 August 2012) are investigated with respect to their atmospheric causes and statistical return periods. In terms of the synoptic–convective dynamics, the Ouagadougou case is truly extraordinary. A succession of two slow-moving African easterly waves (AEWs) caused record-breaking values of tropospheric moisture. The second AEW, one of the strongest in recent decades, provided the synoptic forcing for the nighttime genesis of mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). Ouagadougou was hit by two MCSs within 6 h, as the strong convergence and rotation in the AEW-related vortex allowed a swift moisture refueling. An AEW was also instrumental in the overnight development of MCSs in the Dakar case, but neither the AEW vortex nor the tropospheric moisture content was as exceptional as in the Ouagadougou case. Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) 3B42 precipitation data show some promise in estimating centennial return values (RVs) using the “peak over threshold” approach with a generalized Pareto distribution fit, although indications for errors in estimating extreme rainfall over the arid Sahel are found. In contrast, the Precipitation Estimation from Remotely Sensed Information Using Artificial Neural Networks–Climate Data Record (PERSIANN-CDR) dataset seems less suitable for this purpose despite the longer record. Notably, the Ouagadougou event demonstrates that highly unusual dynamical developments can create extremes well outside of RV estimates from century-long rainfall observations. Future research will investigate whether such developments may become more frequent in a warmer climate.

Open access
Robert A. Clark III, Zachary L. Flamig, Humberto Vergara, Yang Hong, Jonathan J. Gourley, Daniel J. Mandl, Stuart Frye, Matthew Handy, and Maria Patterson

Abstract

The Republic of Namibia, located along the arid and semiarid coast of southwest Africa, is highly dependent on reliable forecasts of surface and groundwater storage and fluxes. Since 2009, the University of Oklahoma (OU) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have engaged in a series of exercises with the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry to build the capacity to improve the water information available to local decision-makers. These activities have included the calibration and implementation of NASA and OU’s jointly developed Coupled Routing and Excess Storage (CREST) hydrological model as well as the Ensemble Framework for Flash Flood Forecasting (EF5). Hydrological model output is used to produce forecasts of river stage height, discharge, and soil moisture.

To enable broad access to this suite of environmental decision support information, a website, the Namibia Flood Dashboard, hosted on the infrastructure of the Open Science Data Cloud, has been developed. This system enables scientists, ministry officials, nongovernmental organizations, and other interested parties to freely access all available water information produced by the project, including comparisons of NASA satellite imagery to model forecasts of flooding or drought. The local expertise needed to generate and enhance these water information products has been grown through a series of training meetings bringing together national government officials, regional stakeholders, and local university students and faculty. Aided by online training materials, these exercises have resulted in additional capacity-building activities with CREST and EF5 beyond Namibia as well as the initial implementation of a global flood monitoring and forecasting system.

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Lisa Hannak, Peter Knippertz, Andreas H. Fink, Anke Kniffka, and Gregor Pante

Abstract

Climate models struggle to realistically represent the West African monsoon (WAM), which hinders reliable future projections and the development of adequate adaption measures. Low-level clouds over southern West Africa (5°–10°N, 8°W–8°E) during July–September are an integral part of the WAM through their effect on the surface energy balance and precipitation, but their representation in climate models has received little attention. Here 30 (20) years of output from 18 (8) models participating in phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (Year of Tropical Convection) are used to identify cloud biases and their causes. Compared to ERA-Interim reanalyses, many models show large biases in low-level cloudiness of both signs and a tendency to too high elevation and too weak diurnal cycles. At the same time, these models tend to have too strong low-level jets, the impact of which is unclear because of concomitant effects on temperature and moisture advection as well as turbulent mixing. Part of the differences between the models and ERA-Interim appear to be related to the different subgrid cloud schemes used. While nighttime tendencies in temperature and humidity are broadly realistic in most models, daytime tendencies show large problems with the vertical transport of heat and moisture. Many models simulate too low near-surface relative humidities, leading to insufficient low cloud cover and abundant solar radiation, and thus a too large diurnal cycle in temperature and relative humidity. In the future, targeted model sensitivity experiments will be needed to test possible feedback mechanisms between low clouds, radiation, boundary layer dynamics, precipitation, and the WAM circulation.

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Abdou L. Dieng, Saidou M. Sall, Laurence Eymard, Marion Leduc-Leballeur, and Alban Lazar

Abstract

In this study, the relationship between trains of African easterly waves (AEWs) and downstream tropical cyclogenesis is studied. Based on 19 summer seasons (July–September from 1990 to 2008) of ERA-Interim reanalysis fields and brightness temperature from the Cloud User Archive, the signature of AEW troughs and embedded convection are tracked from the West African coast to the central Atlantic. The tracked systems are separated into four groups: (i) systems originating from the north zone of the midtropospheric African easterly jet (AEJ), (ii) those coming from the south part of AEJ, (iii) systems that are associated with a downstream trough located around 2000 km westward (termed DUO systems), and (iv) those that are not associated with such a close downstream trough (termed SOLO systems).

By monitoring the embedded 700-hPa-filtered relative vorticity and 850-hPa wind convergence anomaly associated with these families along their trajectories, it is shown that the DUO generally have stronger dynamical structure and statistically have a longer lifetime than the SOLO ones. It is suggested that the differences between them may be due to the presence of the previous intense downstream trough in DUO cases, enhancing the low-level convergence behind them. Moreover, a study of the relationship between system trajectories and tropical depressions occurring between the West African coast and 40°W showed that 90% of tropical depressions are identifiable from the West African coast in tracked systems, mostly in the DUO cases originating from the south zone of the AEJ.

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Gang Zhang, Kerry H. Cook, and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

This study provides an improved understanding of the diurnal cycle of warm season (June–September) rainfall over West Africa, including its underlying physical processes. Rainfall from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and atmospheric dynamics fields from reanalyses are used to evaluate the 1998–2013 climatology and a case study for 2006.

In both the climatology and the 2006 case study, most regions of West Africa are shown to have a single diurnal peak of rainfall either in the afternoon or at night. Averaging over West Africa produces a diurnal cycle with two peaks, but this type of diurnal cycle is quite atypical on smaller space scales. Rainfall systems are usually generated in the afternoon and propagate westward, lasting into the night. Afternoon rainfall peaks are associated with an unstable lower troposphere. They occur either over topography or in regions undisturbed by nocturnal systems, allowing locally generated instability to dominate. Nocturnal rainfall peaks are associated with the westward propagation of rainfall systems and not generally with local instability. Nocturnal rainfall peaks occur most frequently about 3°–10° of longitude downstream of regions with afternoon rainfall peaks. The diurnal cycle of rainfall is closely associated with the timing of extreme rainfall events.

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Gang Zhang, Kerry H. Cook, and Edward K. Vizy

Abstract

Convection-permitting simulations at 3-km resolution using a regional climate model are analyzed to improve the understanding of the diurnal cycle of rainfall over West Africa and its underlying physical processes. The warm season of 2006 is used for the model simulations. The model produces an accurate representation of the observed seasonal mean rainfall and lower-troposphere circulation and captures the observed westward propagation of rainfall systems. Most of West Africa has a single diurnal peak of rainfall in the simulations, either in the afternoon or at night, in agreement with observations. However, the number of simulated rainfall systems is greater than observed in association with an overestimation of the initiation of afternoon rainfall over topography. The longevity of the simulated propagating systems is about 30% shorter than is observed, and their propagation speed is nearly 20% faster. The model captures the observed afternoon rainfall peaks associated with elevated topography (e.g., the Jos Plateau). Nocturnal rainfall peaks downstream of the topographic afternoon rainfall are also well simulated. However, these nocturnal rainfall peaks are too widespread, and the model fails to reproduce the observed afternoon rainfall peaks over regions removed from topographic influence. This deficiency is related to a planetary boundary layer that is deeper than observed, elevating unstable profiles and inhibiting afternoon convection. This study concludes that increasing model resolution to convection-permitting space scales significantly improves the diurnal cycle of rainfall compared with the models that parameterize convection, but this is not sufficient to fully resolve the issue, perhaps because other parameterizations remain.

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Irenea L. Corporal-Lodangco, Lance M. Leslie, and Peter J. Lamb

Abstract

This study investigates the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) contribution to Philippine tropical cyclone (TC) variability, for a range of quarterly TC metrics. Philippine TC activity is found to depend on both ENSO quarter and phase. TC counts during El Niño phases differ significantly from neutral phases in all quarters, whereas neutral and La Niña phases differ only in January–March and July–September. Differences in landfalls between neutral and El Niño phases are significant in January–March and October–December and in January–March for neutral and La Niña phases. El Niño and La Niña landfalls are significantly different in April–June and October–December. Philippine neutral and El Niño TC genesis cover broader longitude–latitude ranges with similar long tracks, originating farther east in the western North Pacific. In El Niño phases, the mean eastward displacement of genesis locations and more recurving TCs reduce Philippine TC frequencies. Proximity of La Niña TC genesis to the Philippines and straight-moving tracks in April–June and October–December increase TC frequencies and landfalls. Neutral and El Niño accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) values are above average, except in April–June of El Niño phases. Above-average quarterly ACE in neutral years is due to increased TC frequencies, days, and intensities, whereas above-average El Niño ACE in July–September is due to increased TC days and intensities. Below-average La Niña ACE results from fewer TCs and shorter life cycles. Longer TC durations produce slightly above-average TC days in July–September El Niño phases. Fewer TCs than neutral years, as well as shorter TC durations, imply less TC days in La Niña phases. However, above-average TC days occur in October–December as a result of higher TC frequencies.

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Susan Stillman, Xubin Zeng, and Michael G. Bosilovich

Abstract

Precipitation and soil moisture are rigorously measured or estimated from a variety of sources. Here, 22 precipitation and 23 soil moisture products are evaluated against long-term daily observed precipitation (Pobs) and July–September daily observationally constrained soil moisture (SM) datasets over a densely monitored 150 km2 watershed in southeastern Arizona, United States. Gauge–radar precipitation products perform best, followed by reanalysis and satellite products, and the median correlations of annual precipitation from these three categories with Pobs are 0.83, 0.68, and 0.46, respectively. Precipitation results from phase 5 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) are the worst, including an overestimate of cold season precipitation and a lack of significant correlation of annual precipitation with Pobs from all (except one) models. Satellite soil moisture products perform best, followed by land data assimilation systems and reanalyses, and the CMIP5 results are the worst. For instance, the median unbiased root-mean-square difference (RMSD) values of July–September soil moisture compared with SM are 0.0070, 0.011, 0.014, and 0.029 m3 m−3 for these four product categories, respectively. All 17 (except 3) precipitation [17 (except 2) soil moisture] products with at least 20 years of data agree with Pobs (SM) without significant trends. The uncertainties associated with the scale mismatch between Pobs and coarser-resolution products are addressed using two 4-km gauge–radar precipitation products, and their impact on the results presented in this study is overall small. These results identify strengths and weaknesses of each product for future improvement; they also emphasize the importance of using multiple gauge–radar and satellite products along with their uncertainties in evaluating reanalyses and models.

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