Sahel decadal rainfall variability and the role of model horizontal resolution
Vellinga, M., Roberts, M., Vidale, P. L., Mizielinski, M. S., Demory, M.-E., Schiemann, R., Strachan, J. and Bain, C. (2016) Sahel decadal rainfall variability and the role of model horizontal resolution. Geophysical Research Letters, 43 (1). pp. 326-333. ISSN 0094-8276
To link to this article DOI: 10.1002/2015GL066690
Substantial low-frequency rainfall fluctuations occurred in the Sahel throughout the twentieth century, causing devastating drought. Modeling these low-frequency rainfall fluctuations has remained problematic for climate models for many years. Here we show using a combination of state-of-the-art rainfall observations and high-resolution global climate models that changes in organized heavy rainfall events carry most of the rainfall variability in the Sahel at multiannual to decadal time scales. Ability to produce intense, organized convection allows climate models to correctly simulate the magnitude of late-twentieth century rainfall change, underlining the importance of model resolution. Increasing model resolution allows a better coupling between large-scale circulation changes and regional rainfall processes over the Sahel. These results provide a strong basis for developing more reliable and skilful long-term predictions of rainfall (seasons to years) which could benefit many sectors in the region by allowing early adaptation to impending extremes.