Enhancement of Interdecadal Climate Variability in the Sahel by Vegetation Interaction

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Science  19 Nov 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5444, pp. 1537-1540
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5444.1537

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The role of naturally varying vegetation in influencing the climate variability in the West African Sahel is explored in a coupled atmosphere–land-vegetation model. The Sahel rainfall variability is influenced by sea-surface temperature variations in the oceans. Land-surface feedback is found to increase this variability both on interannual and interdecadal time scales. Interactive vegetation enhances the interdecadal variation substantially but can reduce year-to-year variability because of a phase lag introduced by the relatively slow vegetation adjustment time. Variations in vegetation accompany the changes in rainfall, in particular the multidecadal drying trend from the 1950s to the 1980s.

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