Climate Dynamics

, Volume 53, Issue 3–4, pp 1741–1763 | Cite as

Elucidating observed land surface feedbacks across sub-Saharan Africa

  • Michael NotaroEmail author
  • Fuyao Wang
  • Yan Yu


This study examines the role of terrestrial forcings on the regional climate of sub-Saharan Africa through the application of a multivariate statistical method, stepwise generalized equilibrium feedback assessment, to an array of observational, reanalysis, and remote sensing data products. By applying multiple datasets, data uncertainty and the robustness of assessed land surface feedbacks are considered. The approach from our 2017 study is expanded to decompose the relative contribution of vegetation, soil moisture, and oceanic forcings; investigate the role of evapotranspiration (ET) partitioning in terrestrial feedbacks; and compare land surface feedbacks among four key regions, namely the Sahel, Greater Horn of Africa, West African monsoon region, and Congo. ET partitioning differs notably among sub-Saharan regions and between available observational datasets. Across sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, oceanic and terrestrial forcings impose a relatively comparable impact on year-round atmospheric conditions. The land surface feedbacks are most pronounced across the semi-arid Sahel and Greater Horn of Africa, although with unique seasonality of such feedbacks between regions. Moisture recycling is the dominant mechanism in these regions, with positive soil moisture–vegetation–rainfall feedbacks. The direct feedback of soil moisture anomalies on atmospheric conditions outweighed that of leaf area index anomalies. There is a clear need for more extensive observations of ET, its partitioning, and soil moisture across sub-Saharan Africa, as these data uncertainties propagate into the reliability of assessed soil moisture–ET feedbacks, particularly across the Sahel.


Land–atmosphere interactions Vegetation feedbacks Soil moisture feedbacks Africa 



This work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) (grant DE-SC0012534) Regional and Global Climate Modeling (RGCM) program and National Science Foundation (NSF) (grant 1343904) Climate and Large-Scale Dynamics program. Computer resources were provided by the DOE National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). The comments from four reviewers were greatly appreciated.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 9918 KB)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nelson Institute Center for Climatic ResearchUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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