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Impacts of the Sahel-Sahara Interface Reforestation on West African Climate: Intra-Annual Variability and Extreme Temperature Events

DOI: 10.4236/acs.2019.91003, PP. 35-61

Keywords: RegCM4, Reforestation, Heat Waves, Sahel

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Abstract:

The impacts of the reforestation of the Sahel-Sahara interface on the seasonal distribution of the surface temperature and thermal extremes are studied in the Sahel (West African region lying between 11°N and 18°N). We performed a simulation with the standard version of the RegCM4 model followed by another one using the altered version of the same model taking into account an incorporated forest. The impacts of the vegetation change are assessed by analyzing the difference between the two runs. The reforestation may influence strongly the frequency of warm days (TG90P) and very warm days (TX90P) by decreasing it over the reforested zone from March to May (MAM) and the entire Sahel during the June-August (JJA) period. These TG90P and TX90P indices decrease may be due to the strengthening of the atmospheric moisture content over the whole Sahel region and the weakening of the sensible heat flux over the reforested zone. The analysis also shows a decrease of the TN90P indice (warm nights) over the Sahel during the wet season (JJA) which could be partly associated with the strengthening of the evapotranspiration over the whole Sahel domain. The analysis of additional thermal indices shows an increase of the tropical nights over the entire Sahel from December to February (DJF) and during the warm season (MAM). The strengthening of the tropical night is partly associated with an increase of the surface net downward shortwave flux over the reforested zone. When considering the heat waves, an increase (a decrease) of these events is recorded over the southern Sahel during JJA and SON periods (over the whole Sahelian region during DJF), respectively. Changes in latent heat flux appear to be largely responsible for these extreme temperatures change. This work shows that the vegetation change may impact positively some regions like the reforested area by reducing the occurrence of thermal extremes; while other Sahel regions (eastern part of the central Sahel) could suffer from it because of the strengthening of thermal extremes.

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