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02 July 2012

Climate Projections for Africa

CCAPS researchers Kerry Cook and Ned Vizy have designed and run mid-century climate projection simulations for Africa. The climate projections are generated using a regional climate model focused on Africa, allowing the researchers to optimize the model to be more accurate for the African continent than current global models and to produce projections at higher resolution. The future simulations focus on the mid-century to better align with policy planning horizons.

Based on a derivation of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, and using the Texas Advanced Computing Center supercomputer facilities at the University of Texas at Austin, an initial set of projections for African climate at 90-km resolution for the present day (1981-2000) and the mid-21st century (2041-2060) is complete.

Dr. Cook and Dr. Vizy recently released findings from these projections. In their article, Mid-21st Century Changes in Extreme Events over Northern and Tropical Africa in the Journal of Climate, Vizy and Cook examined six indicators – annual extreme and daily diurnal temperature ranges, heat wave days, number of dry days, number of extreme wet days, and extreme wet day rainfall intensity – and predicted changes in extremes across tropical and northern Africa for 2041-2060. Among their numerous findings, they found that the number of extreme wet rainfall days is projected to increase over West Africa, the Sahel, and the Ethiopian highlands but decrease over the Congo.

They also used the regional climate model to analyze projected changes in growing seasons across Africa. In their article, The Impact of Climate Change on Mid-21st Century Growing Seasons in Africa in Climate Dynamics, Dr. Cook and Dr. Vizy provide a region-by-region examination of changes in growing seasons within and across countries. For example, they found that the response is highly regional in West Africa, with decreases in growing season days in the western Guinean coast but increases in regions to the east. They predict increases in summer rain and a longer growing season in the central and eastern Sahel, with shorter seasons in parts of the western Sahel.

The CCAPS researchers are currently producing new mid- and late-century multi-year projections at 90-km and 30-km resolution to generate climate information on time and space scales needed to better assess changes in interannual variability and improve impacts analysis at sub-national scales.

Click here for more information about the CCAPS program's research on climate projections in Africa.

Dr. Kerry Cook is a Professor in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. She began her career at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab at Princeton University, followed by 18 years as a professor at Cornell University where she taught courses in Climate Dynamics, Atmospheric Dynamics, and Atmospheric Physics and was a founder of the Science of Earth Systems major.

Dr. Edward Vizy is a Research Scientist Associate in the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. He is an atmospheric scientist, and his work is focused primarily on understanding regional climate variability and climate change over the tropics and sub-tropics including Africa. Dr. Vizy has over ten years experience developing and adapting high-resolution regional climate system models for use in addressing climate related issues.
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