Climatic Change

, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 401–427 | Cite as

Regional modelling of future African climate north of 15°S including greenhouse warming and land degradation

  • Heiko Paeth
  • Hans-Peter Thamm


Previous studies have highlighted the crucial role of land degradation in tropical African climate. This effect urgently has to be taken into account when predicting future African climate under enhanced greenhouse conditions. Here, we present time slice experiments of African climate until 2025, using a high-resolution regional climate model. A supposable scenario of future land use changes, involving vegetation loss and soil degradation, is prescribed simultaneously with increasing greenhouse-gas concentrations in order to detect, where the different forcings counterbalance or reinforce each other. This proceeding allows us to define the regions of highest vulnerability with respect to future freshwater availability and food security in tropical and subtropical Africa and may provide a decision basis for political measures. The model simulates a considerable reduction in precipitation amount until 2025 over most of tropical Africa, amounting to partly more than 500 mm (20–40% of the annual sum), particularly in the Congo Basin and the Sahel Zone. The change is strongest in boreal summer and basically reflects the pattern of maximum vegetation cover during the seasonal cycle. The related change in the surface energy fluxes induces a substantial near-surface warming by up to 7°C. According to the modified temperature gradients over tropical Africa, the summer monsoon circulation intensifies and transports more humid air masses into the southern part of West Africa. This humidifying effect is overcompensated by a remarkable decrease in surface evaporation, leading to the overall drying tendency over most of Africa. Extreme daily rainfall events become stronger in autumn but less intense in spring. Summer and autumn appear to be characterized by more severe heat waves over Subsaharan West Africa. In addition, the Tropical Easterly Jet is weakening, leading to enhanced drought conditions in the Sahel Zone. All these results suggest that the local impact of land degradation and reduction of vegetation cover may be more important in tropical Africa than the global radiative heating, at least until 2025. This implies that vegetation protection measures at a national scale may directly lead to a mitigation of the expected negative implications of future climate change in tropical Africa.


Regional Climate Model Land Degradation Global Climate Model Generalize Pareto Distribution West African Monsoon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geographical InstituteUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Geographical InstituteUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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