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Mxolisi E. Shongwe, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Bart van den Hurk, and Maarten van Aalst


Probable changes in mean and extreme precipitation in East Africa are estimated from general circulation models (GCMs) prepared for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). Bayesian statistics are used to derive the relative weights assigned to each member in the multimodel ensemble. There is substantial evidence in support of a positive shift of the whole rainfall distribution in East Africa during the wet seasons. The models give indications for an increase in mean precipitation rates and intensity of high rainfall events but for less severe droughts. Upward precipitation trends are projected from early this (twenty first) century. As in the observations, a statistically significant link between sea surface temperature gradients in the tropical Indian Ocean and short rains (October–December) in East Africa is simulated in the GCMs. Furthermore, most models project a differential warming of the Indian Ocean during boreal autumn. This is favorable for an increase in the probability of positive Indian Ocean zonal mode events, which have been associated with anomalously strong short rains in East Africa. On top of the general increase in rainfall in the tropics due to thermodynamic effects, a change in the structure of the Eastern Hemisphere Walker circulation is consistent with an increase in East Africa precipitation relative to other regions within the same latitudinal belt. A notable feature of this change is a weakening of the climatological subsidence over eastern Kenya. East Africa is shown to be a region in which a coherent projection of future precipitation change can be made, supported by physical arguments. Although the rate of change is still uncertain, almost all results point to a wetter climate with more intense wet seasons and less severe droughts.

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Hannah Nissan, Katrin Burkart, Erin Coughlan de Perez, Maarten Van Aalst, and Simon Mason


This paper proposes a heat-wave definition for Bangladesh that could be used to trigger preparedness measures in a heat early warning system (HEWS) and explores the climate mechanisms associated with heat waves. A HEWS requires a definition of heat waves that is both related to human health outcomes and forecastable. No such definition has been developed for Bangladesh. Using a generalized additive regression model, a heat-wave definition is proposed that requires elevated minimum and maximum daily temperatures over the 95th percentile for 3 consecutive days, confirming the importance of nighttime conditions for health impacts. By this definition, death rates increase by about 20% during heat waves; this result can be used as an argument for public-health interventions to prevent heat-related deaths. Furthermore, predictability of these heat waves exists from weather to seasonal time scales, offering opportunities for a range of preparedness measures. Heat waves are associated with an absence of normal premonsoonal rainfall brought about by anomalously strong low-level westerly winds and weak southerlies, detectable up to approximately 10 days in advance. This circulation pattern occurs over a background of drier-than-normal conditions, with below-average soil moisture and precipitation throughout the heat-wave season from April to June. Low soil moisture increases the odds of heat-wave occurrence for 10–30 days, indicating that subseasonal forecasts of heat-wave risk may be possible by monitoring soil-moisture conditions.

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Benjamin F. Zaitchik, Judy Omumbo, Rachel Lowe, Maarten van Aalst, Liana O. Anderson, Erich Fischer, Charlotte Norman, Joanne Robbins, Rosa Barciela, Juli Trtanj, Rosa von Borries, and Jürg Luterbacher
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Friederike E. L. Otto, Karsten Haustein, Peter Uhe, Caio A. S. Coelho, Jose Antonio Aravequia, Waldenio Almeida, Andrew King, Erin Coughlan de Perez, Yoshihide Wada, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Rein Haarsma, Maarten van Aalst, and Heidi Cullen
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