The role of vegetation in the dynamics of West African monsoons

Title The role of vegetation in the dynamics of West African monsoons
Publication Type Journal Article
Year of Publication 1998
Authors Zheng, X. Y. & Eltahir, E. A. B.
Journal Journal of Climate
Volume 11
Date Published 1998

The focus of this paper is the role of meridional distribution of vegetation in the dynamics of monsoons and rainfall over West Africa. A moist zonally symmetric atmospheric model coupled with a simple land surface scheme is developed to investigate these processes. Four primary experiments have been carried out to examine the sensitivity of West African monsoons to perturbations in the meridional distribution of vegetation. In the control experiment, the authors assume a distribution of vegetation that resembles the natural vegetation cover in West Africa. Each perturbation experiment is identical to the control experiment except that a change in vegetation cover is imposed for a latitudinal belt that is 10 degrees in width. The results of the numerical experiments demonstrate that West African monsoons and therefore rainfall distribution depend critically on the location of the vegetation perturbations. Changes in vegetation cover along the border between the Sahara desert and West Africa (desertification) may have a minor impact on the simulated monsoon circulation. However, coastal deforestation may cause the collapse of the monsoon circulation and have a dramatic impact on the regional rainfall. The observed deforestation in West Africa is then likely to be a significant contributor to the observed drought.

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