Impact of potential large-scale irrigation on the West African Monsoon and its dependence on location of irrigated area

Title Impact of potential large-scale irrigation on the West African Monsoon and its dependence on location of irrigated area
Publication Type Journal Article
Year of Publication 2014
Authors Im E-S, Marcella MP, Eltahir EAB
Journal Journal of Climate
Volume 27
Issue 3
Start Page 994
Pagination 1009
Date Published 02/2014
ISSN 1520-0442
Keywords Atmosphere-land interaction, Climate sensitivity, Regional models

This study investigates the impact of potential large-scale irrigation on the West African monsoon using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology regional climate model (MRCM). A new irrigation module is implemented to assess the impact of location and scheduling of irrigation on rainfall distribution over West Africa. A control simulation (without irrigation) and eight sensitivity experiments (with irrigation) are performed and compared to discern the effects of irrigation location and scheduling. It is found that the irrigation effect on soil moisture could force significant changes in spatial distribution and magnitude of rainfall, depending on the latitudinal location of irrigation. In general, the large irrigation-induced surface cooling owing to anomalously wet soil tends to suppress moist convection and rainfall, which in turn induces local subsidence and low-level anticyclonic circulation. These local effects are dominated by a consistent reduction of local rainfall over the irrigated land, irrespective of its location. However, the remote response of rainfall distribution to irrigation exhibits a significant sensitivity to the latitudinal position of irrigation and the intraseasonal variation of supplied irrigation water. The low-level northeasterly airflow associated with an anticyclonic circulation centered over the irrigation area, induced at optimal location and timing, would enhance the extent of low-level convergence areas through interaction with the prevailing monsoon flow, leading to a significant increase in rainfall. As the location of the irrigation area is moved from the coast northward, the regional rainfall change exhibits a significant decrease first, then increases gradually to a maximum corresponding to irrigation centered around 20°N, before it declines again.

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