Atmospheric feedbacks in North Africa from an irrigated, afforested Sahara.

Kemena, Tronje Peer , Matthes, Katja , Martin, Thomas , Wahl, Sebastian and Oschlies, Andreas (2018) Atmospheric feedbacks in North Africa from an irrigated, afforested Sahara. Climate Dynamics, 50 (11-12). pp. 4561-4581. DOI 10.1007/s00382-017-3890-8.

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Afforestation of the Sahara has been proposed as a climate engineering method to sequester a substantial amount of carbon dioxide, potentially effective to mitigate climate change. Earlier studies predicted changes in the atmospheric circulation system. These atmospheric feedbacks raise questions about the self-sustainability of such an intervention, but have not been investigated in detail. Here, we investigate changes in precipitation and circulation in response to Saharan large-scale afforestation and irrigation with NCAR’s CESM-WACCM Earth system model. Our model results show a Saharan temperature reduction by 6 K and weak precipitation enhancement by 267 mm/year over the Sahara. Only 26% of the evapotranspirated water re-precipitates over the Saharan Desert, considerably large amounts are advected southward to the Sahel zone and enhance the West African monsoon (WAM). Different processes cause circulation and precipitation changes over North Africa. The increase in atmospheric moisture leads to radiative cooling above the Sahara and increased high-level cloud coverage as well as atmospheric warming above the Sahel zone. Both lead to a circulation anomaly with descending air over the Sahara and ascending air over the Sahel zone. Together with changes in the meridional temperature gradient, this results in a southward shift of the inner-tropical front. The strengthening of the Tropical easterly jet and the northward displacement of the African easterly jet is associated with a northward displacement and strengthening of the WAM precipitation. Our results suggest complex atmospheric circulation feedbacks, which reduce the precipitation potential over an afforested Sahara and enhance WAM precipitation.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Afforestation; Climate engineering; Circulation; Irrigation; West African monsoon
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-BM Biogeochemical Modeling
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-ME Maritime Meteorology
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1007/s00382-017-3890-8
ISSN: 0930-7575
Projects: SPP 1689, NATHAN
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2017 09:09
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2021 07:43

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