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Impact of internal variability on projections of Sahel precipitation change

Monerie, P.-A., Sanchez-Gomez, E., Pohl, B., Robson, J. and Dong, B. (2017) Impact of internal variability on projections of Sahel precipitation change. Environmental Research Letters, 12 (11). 114003. ISSN 1748-9326

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa8cda


The impact of the increase of greenhouse gases on Sahelian precipitation is very uncertain in both its spatial pattern and magnitude. In particular, the relative importance of internal variability versus external forcings depends on the time horizon considered in the climate projection. In this study we address the respective roles of the internal climate variability versus external forcings on Sahelian precipitation by using the data from the CESMLarge Ensemble Project,which consists of a 40 member ensemble performed with the CESM1-CAM5 coupled model for the period 1920–2100. We show that CESM1-CAM5 is able to simulate the mean and interannual variability of Sahel precipitation, and is representative of a CMIP5 ensemble of simulations (i.e. it simulates the same pattern of precipitation change along with equivalent magnitude and seasonal cycle changes as the CMIP5 ensemble mean). However, CESM1-CAM5 underestimates the long-term decadal variability in Sahel precipitation. For short-term (2010–2049) and mid-term (2030–2069) projections the simulated internal variability component is able to obscure the projected impact of the external forcing. For long-term (2060–2099) projections external forcing induced change becomes stronger than simulated internal variability. Precipitation changes are found to be more robust over the central Sahel than over the western Sahel, where climate change effects struggle to emerge. Ten (thirty) members are needed to separate the 10 year averaged forced response from climate internal variability response in the western Sahel for a long-term (short-term) horizon. Over the central Sahel two members (ten members) are needed for a long-term (short-term) horizon.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:73456
Publisher:Institute of Physics


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