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Marco Gaetani and Elsa Mohino

Abstract

In this study the capability of eight state-of-the-art ocean–atmosphere coupled models in predicting the monsoonal precipitation in the Sahel on a decadal time scale is assessed. To estimate the importance of the initialization, the predictive skills of two different CMIP5 experiments are compared, a set of 10 decadal hindcasts initialized every 5 years in the period 1961–2009 and the historical simulations in the period 1961–2005. Results indicate that predictive skills are highly model dependent: the Fourth Generation Canadian Coupled Global Climate Model (CanCM4), Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques Coupled Global Climate Model, version 5 (CNRM-CM5), and Max Planck Institute Earth System Model, low resolution (MPI-ESM-LR) models show improved skill in the decadal hindcasts, while the Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate, version 5 (MIROC5) is skillful in both the decadal and historical experiments. The Beijing Climate Center, Climate System Model, version 1.1 (BCC-CSM1.1), Hadley Centre Coupled Model, version 3 (HadCM3), L'Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace Coupled Model, version 5, coupled with NEMO, low resolution (IPSL-CM5A-LR), and Meteorological Research Institute Coupled Atmosphere–Ocean General Circulation Model, version 3 (MRI-CGCM3) models show insignificant or no skill in predicting the Sahelian precipitation. Skillful predictions are produced by models properly describing the SST multidecadal variability and the initialization appears to play an important role in this respect.

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Julián Villamayor, Elsa Mohino, Myriam Khodri, Juliette Mignot, and Serge Janicot

Abstract

Precipitation regime shifts in the Sahel region have dramatic humanitarian and economic consequences such as the severe droughts during the 1970s and 1980s. Though Sahel precipitation changes during the late twentieth century have been extensively studied, little is known about the decadal variability prior to the twentieth century. Some evidence suggests that during the second half of the nineteenth century, the Sahel was as rainy as or even more rainy than during the 1950s and 1960s. Here, we reproduce such an anomalous Sahel humid period in the late nineteenth century by means of climate simulations. We show that this increase of rainfall was associated with an anomalous supply of humidity and higher-than-normal deep convection in the mid- and high troposphere. We present evidence suggesting that sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Atlantic basin played the dominant role in driving decadal Sahel rainfall variability during this early period.

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Cassien D. Ndiaye, Elsa Mohino, Juliette Mignot, and Saidou M. Sall

Abstract

The Sahel semiarid region was marked during the 20th century by significant modulations of its rainfall regime at the decadal timescale. Part of these modulations have been associated with the internal variability of the climate system, linked to changes in oceanic sea surface temperature. More recently, several studies have highlighted the influence of external forcings during the dry period in the 1980s and the recovery around the 2000s. In this work we evaluate the internally and externally driven decadal modulations of Sahel rainfall during the entire 20th Century using a set of twelve (12) models from the sixth Coupled Model Intercomparison Exercise (CMIP6).

We begin by proposing a physically-based definition of Sahel rainfall that takes into account the southward hias in the location of the Sahelian ITCZ simulated by all the models. Our results show that the amplitude of the decadal variability, which is underestimated by most models, is mainly produced by the internally-driven component. Conversely, the external forcing tends to enhance the synchrony of the simulated and observed decadal modulations in most models, providing statistically significant correlations of the historical ensemble mean with observations in 1/3 of the models, namely IPSL-CM6A-LR, INM-CM5-0, MRI-ESM2-0 and GISS-E2-1-G.

Further analysis of the Detection and Attribution runs of the IPSL-CM6A-LR show that anthropogenic aerosol dominate the decadal modulations of Sahel rainfall simulated by this model, and suggest that at least a part of the impact is ocean-mediated and operated through shifts in the ITCZ and the Saharan Heat Low.

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Elsa Mohino, Belén Rodríguez-Fonseca, C. Roberto Mechoso, Teresa Losada, and Irene Polo

Abstract

State-of-the-art general circulation models show important systematic errors in their simulation of sea surface temperatures (SST), especially in the tropical Atlantic. In this work the spread in the simulation of climatological SST in the tropical Atlantic by 24 CMIP5 models is examined, and its relationship with the mean systematic biases in the region is explored. The modes of intermodel variability are estimated by applying principal component (PC) analysis to the SSTs in the region 70°W–20°E, 20°S–20°N. The intermodel variability is approximately explained by the first three modes. The first mode is related to warmer SSTs in the basin, shows worldwide connections with same-signed loads over most of the tropics, and is connected with lower low cloud cover over the eastern parts of the subtropical oceans. The second mode is restricted to the Atlantic, where it shows negative and positive loads to the north and south of the equator, respectively, and is connected to a too weak Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The third mode is related to the double intertropical convergence zone bias in the Pacific and to an interhemispheric asymmetry in the net radiation at the top of the atmosphere. The structure of the second mode is closer to the mean bias than that of the others in the tropical Atlantic, suggesting that model difficulties with the AMOC contribute to the regional biases.

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Jorge López Parages, Belén Rodríguez de Fonseca, Elsa Mohino, and Teresa Losada

Abstract

Many studies point to a robust ENSO signature on the North Atlantic–European (NAE) sector associated with a downstream effect of Rossby wave trains. Some of these works also address a nonstationary behavior of the aforementioned link, but only few have explored the possible modulating factors. In this study the internal causes within the ocean–atmosphere coupled system influencing the tropospheric ENSO–Euro-Mediterranean rainfall teleconnection have been analyzed. To this aim, unforced long-term preindustrial control simulations from 18 different CMIP5 models have been used. A nonstationary impact of ENSO on Euro-Mediterranean rainfall, being spatially consistent with the observational one, is found. This variable feature is explained by a changing ENSO-related Rossby wave propagation from the tropical Pacific to the NAE sector, which, in turn, is modulated by multidecadal variability of the climatological jet streams associated with the underlying sea surface temperature (SST). The results, therefore, indicate a modulation of the ENSO–Euro-Mediterranean rainfall teleconnection by the internal (and multidecadal) variability of the ocean–atmosphere coupled system.

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Teresa Losada, Belén Rodríguez-Fonseca, C. Roberto Mechoso, Elsa Mohino, and Antonio Castaño-Tierno

Abstract

Although tropical interbasin interactions at interannual time scales are presently receiving much attention, their controlling factors and variations on longer time scales are under debate. Tropical convection plays a crucial role in the occurrence and nonstationarity of them. In this paper, we investigate the dependence of interannual tropical Atlantic–Pacific basin interactions on convection-related features of the tropical oceans’ climatology, especially the ITCZ position. We contrast a CGCM control simulation with an experiment in which tropical convection is modified by an artificial perturbation outside the tropics that reduces the incident shortwave radiation in a region of the South Atlantic. Based on previous work, this modification is expected to shift in latitude the climatological position of the simulated ITCZ. The experiment shows altered Walker circulations, stronger interannual variability over the tropical oceans, a westward extension of the Atlantic Niño pattern and of convection, and shallower thermocline in the Pacific, making the basin more sensitive to both local and remote perturbations. As a consequence, the experiment shows enhanced interannual Atlantic–Pacific basin interactions at the equator, and weaker teleconnections between the north tropical Atlantic and the equatorial Pacific. The latter seems to occur because the impact of the warm Atlantic SST anomalies is offset by the presence of warm SST anomalies in El Niño region. Despite the uncertainties raised because the simulations are relatively short, we conclude that this work presents a potential explanation for the long-term changes in the tropical basin interactions and offers a novel and useful methodology for their analysis.

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Aïssatou Badji, Elsa Mohino, Moussa Diakhaté, Juliette Mignot, and Amadou Thierno Gaye

Abstract

Rainfall characteristics are crucial in monsoon regions, in particular for agriculture. Crop yields indeed depend on the rainfall seasonal amounts, but also on other rainfall characteristics such as the onset of the rainy season or the distribution of rainy days. In the Sahel region, while the average amount of seasonal rainfall has been shown to be marked by strong decadal variability, the modulation of rainfall characteristics has received less attention in the literature so far. In this study, we show that the frequency of light, heavy, and extreme rainfall events and the mean intensity of rainfall events in Senegal exhibit a marked decadal variability over the 1918–2000 period, strongly similar to that of the mean seasonal rainfall. The decadal modulations of these events show a strong and positive link with the Atlantic multidecadal variability (AMV). Indeed, positive sea surface temperature anomalies over the North Atlantic and Mediterranean related to a warm AMV phase are associated with negative sea level pressure anomalies over the northern Atlantic and a northward shift of the intertropical convergence zone. We also find that the onset and cessation dates as well as the length of the rainy season show relatively less decadal variability, which is more related to the interdecadal Pacific oscillation (IPO), a positive phase of the latter leading to a late onset, an early cessation, and an overall shorter rainy season in Senegal.

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Belen Rodríguez-Fonseca, Elsa Mohino, Carlos R. Mechoso, Cyril Caminade, Michela Biasutti, Marco Gaetani, J. Garcia-Serrano, Edward K. Vizy, Kerry Cook, Yongkang Xue, Irene Polo, Teresa Losada, Leonard Druyan, Bernard Fontaine, Juergen Bader, Francisco J. Doblas-Reyes, Lisa Goddard, Serge Janicot, Alberto Arribas, William Lau, Andrew Colman, M. Vellinga, David P. Rowell, Fred Kucharski, and Aurore Voldoire

Abstract

The Sahel experienced a severe drought during the 1970s and 1980s after wet periods in the 1950s and 1960s. Although rainfall partially recovered since the 1990s, the drought had devastating impacts on society. Most studies agree that this dry period resulted primarily from remote effects of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies amplified by local land surface–atmosphere interactions. This paper reviews advances made during the last decade to better understand the impact of global SST variability on West African rainfall at interannual to decadal time scales. At interannual time scales, a warming of the equatorial Atlantic and Pacific/Indian Oceans results in rainfall reduction over the Sahel, and positive SST anomalies over the Mediterranean Sea tend to be associated with increased rainfall. At decadal time scales, warming over the tropics leads to drought over the Sahel, whereas warming over the North Atlantic promotes increased rainfall. Prediction systems have evolved from seasonal to decadal forecasting. The agreement among future projections has improved from CMIP3 to CMIP5, with a general tendency for slightly wetter conditions over the central part of the Sahel, drier conditions over the western part, and a delay in the monsoon onset. The role of the Indian Ocean, the stationarity of teleconnections, the determination of the leader ocean basin in driving decadal variability, the anthropogenic role, the reduction of the model rainfall spread, and the improvement of some model components are among the most important remaining questions that continue to be the focus of current international projects.

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