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Declan L. Finney, John H. Marsham, Lawrence S. Jackson, Elizabeth J. Kendon, David P. Rowell, Penelope M. Boorman, Richard J. Keane, Rachel A. Stratton, and Catherine A. Senior


The precipitation and diabatic heating resulting from moist convection make it a key component of the atmospheric water budget in the tropics. With convective parameterization being a known source of uncertainty in global models, convection-permitting (CP) models are increasingly being used to improve understanding of regional climate. Here, a new 10-yr CP simulation is used to study the characteristics of rainfall and atmospheric water budget for East Africa and the Lake Victoria basin. The explicit representation of convection leads to a widespread improvement in the intensities and diurnal cycle of rainfall when compared with a parameterized simulation. Differences in large-scale moisture fluxes lead to a shift in the mean rainfall pattern from the Congo to Lake Victoria basin in the CP simulation—highlighting the important connection between local changes in the representation of convection and larger-scale dynamics and rainfall. Stronger lake–land contrasts in buoyancy in the CP model lead to a stronger nocturnal land breeze over Lake Victoria, increasing evaporation and moisture flux convergence (MFC), and likely unrealistically high rainfall. However, for the mountains east of the lake, the CP model produces a diurnal rainfall cycle much more similar to satellite estimates, which is related to differences in the timing of MFC. Results here demonstrate that, while care is needed regarding lake forcings, a CP approach offers a more realistic representation of several rainfall characteristics through a more physically based realization of the atmospheric dynamics around the complex topography of East Africa.

Open access
Rory G. J. Fitzpatrick, Douglas J. Parker, John H. Marsham, David P. Rowell, Francoise M. Guichard, Chris M. Taylor, Kerry H. Cook, Edward K. Vizy, Lawrence S. Jackson, Declan Finney, Julia Crook, Rachel Stratton, and Simon Tucker


Extreme rainfall is expected to increase under climate change, carrying potential socioeconomic risks. However, the magnitude of increase is uncertain. Over recent decades, extreme storms over the West African Sahel have increased in frequency, with increased vertical wind shear shown to be a cause. Drier midlevels, stronger cold pools, and increased storm organization have also been observed. Global models do not capture the potential effects of lower- to midtropospheric wind shear or cold pools on storm organization since they parameterize convection. Here we use the first convection-permitting simulations of African climate change to understand how changes in thermodynamics and storm dynamics affect future extreme Sahelian rainfall. The model, which simulates warming associated with representative concentration pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) until the end of the twenty-first century, projects a 28% increase of the extreme rain rate of MCSs. The Sahel moisture change on average follows Clausius–Clapeyron scaling, but has regional heterogeneity. Rain rates scale with the product of time-of-storm total column water (TCW) and in-storm vertical velocity. Additionally, prestorm wind shear and convective available potential energy both modulate in-storm vertical velocity. Although wind shear affects cloud-top temperatures within our model, it has no direct correlation with precipitation rates. In our model, projected future increase in TCW is the primary explanation for increased rain rates. Finally, although colder cold pools are modeled in the future climate, we see no significant change in near-surface winds, highlighting avenues for future research on convection-permitting modeling of storm dynamics.

Open access