- Journal Article
The focus of this paper is the role of meridional distribution of vegetation in the dynamics of monsoons and rainfall over West Africa. We develop a moist zonally symmetric atmospheric model coupled with a simple land surface scheme to investigate these processes. Four primary experiments have been carried out to examine the sensitivity of West African monsoons to perturbations in vegetation patterns. Each perturbation experiment is identical to the control experiment except that a change in vegetation cover is imposed for a latitudinal belt of 10° in width. The numerical experiments demonstrate that West African monsoons and therefore rainfall depend critically on the location of the vegetation perturbations. While the magnitude of local rainfall is sensitive to changes in local vegetation, the location of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is not sensitive to changes in the vegetation northward or southward from the location of ITCZ in the control experiment. However, the location of the ITCZ is sensitive to changes of the vegetation distribution in the immediate vicinity of the location of the ITCZ in the control experiment. The modeling results indicate that changes in vegetation cover along the border between the Sahara desert and West Africa (desertification) have a minor impact on the simulated monsoon circulation. On the other hand, 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.
© 1998 American Meteorological Society