Response of regional climate to global forcing : the dynamics of climate change in West Africa

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There is now unequivocal evidence that the Earth's climate is changing as a result of human activities. These changes pose a number of potential risks for human and natural systems. Within the Sahel, a semi-arid region of northern Africa that is home to over 50 million people, climate-related stresses on human systems are exacerbated by a limited capacity for climate adaptation and persistent uncertainty in projections of future climate. In this dissertation I utilize a suite of numerical modeling techniques in conjunction with observational data to study the multi-scale interactions that shape rainfall and atmospheric circulation in northern West Africa. This dissertation consists of three chapters. In the first chapter, I use an ensemble of general circulation model experiments to examine the relative roles of different global drivers in shaping projected changes in West African climate. Specifically, I assess the response of precipitation and atmospheric circulation in West Africa to the individual influences of direct atmospheric radiative forcing from projected increases in greenhouse gas concentrations and greenhouse gas-induced sea surface temperature forcing. In the second chapter, I evaluate the simulation of synoptic-scale weather disturbances, known as African easterly waves, in the latest generation of global climate models. African easterly waves serve as an important source of Sahel rainfall and play a critical role in Saharan dust transport and the initiation of the most intense Atlantic basin hurricanes. In this work I identify key reasons for biases in the simulation of African easterly waves, and offer several new insights for improved climate modeling efforts in West Africa. In the third chapter, I explore the response of atmospheric circulation in West Africa to projected increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. Models exhibit a robust increase in monsoon strength and African easterly wave activity in response to the pattern of future warming in West Africa. These results suggest the possibility of a number of future climate-related impacts on human and natural systems in West Africa and the greater Atlantic basin.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2014
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Skinner, Christopher Bryan
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Environmental Earth System Science.
Primary advisor Diffenbaugh, Noah S
Thesis advisor Diffenbaugh, Noah S
Thesis advisor Caldeira, K. (Ken)
Thesis advisor Lambin, Eric F
Thesis advisor Thomas, Leif N
Advisor Caldeira, K. (Ken)
Advisor Lambin, Eric F
Advisor Thomas, Leif N


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Christopher Bryan Skinner.
Note Submitted to the Department of Environmental Earth System Science.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2014.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2014 by Christopher Bryan Skinner
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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