948 Sahel Decadal Rainfall Variability and the Role of Model Horizontal Resolution

Wednesday, 10 January 2018
Exhibit Hall 3 (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Michael Vellinga, Met Office, Exeter, UK; and M. J. Roberts, P. L. Vidale, M. Mizielinski, M. E. Demory, R. Schiemann, J. Strachan, and C. L. Bain

Substantial low-frequency rainfall fluctuations occurred in the Sahel throughout the twentieth century, causing devastating drought. Modeling these low-frequency rainfall fluctuations has remained problematic for climate models for many years. Here we show using a combination of rainfall observations and high-resolution global climate models that changes in organized heavy rainfall events carry most of the rainfall variability in the Sahel at multiannual to decadal time scales. Ability to produce intense, organized convection enables CMIP5 climate models to correctly simulate the magnitude of late-twentieth century rainfall change in AMIP simulations, underlining the importance of model resolution. Increasing model resolution allows a better coupling between large-scale circulation changes and regional rainfall processes over the Sahel. These results provide a strong basis for developing more reliable and skilful long-term predictions of rainfall (seasons to years) which could benefit many sectors in the region by allowing early adaptation to impending extremes.
- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner