Projections of rapidly rising surface temperatures over Africa under low mitigation.

Engelbrecht, F.
Adegoke, J.
Bopape, M.-J.
Naidoo, M.
Garland, R.
Thatcher, M.
McGregor, J.
Katzfey, J.
Werner, M.
Ichoku, C.
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Institute of Physics Publishing
An analysis of observed trends in African annual-average near-surface temperatures over the last five decades reveals drastic increases, particularly over parts of the subtropics and central tropical Africa. Over these regions, temperatures have been rising at more than twice the global rate of temperature increase. An ensemble of high-resolution downscalings, obtained using a single regional climate model forced with the sea-surface temperatures and sea-ice fields of an ensemble of global circulation model (GCM) simulations, is shown to realistically represent the relatively strong temperature increases observed in subtropical southern and northern Africa. The amplitudes of warming are generally underestimated, however. Further warming is projected to occur during the 21st century, with plausible increases of 4-6 °C over the subtropics and 3-5 °C over the tropics by the end of the century relative to present-day climate under the A2 (a low mitigation) scenario of the Special Report on Emission Scenarios. High impact climate events such as heat-wave days and high fire-danger days are consistently projected to increase drastically in their frequency of occurrence. General decreases in soil-moisture availability are projected, even for regions where increases in rainfall are plausible, due to enhanced levels of evaporation. The regional dowscalings presented here, and recent GCM projections obtained for Africa, indicate that African annual-averaged temperatures may plausibly rise at about 1.5 times the global rate of temperature increase in the subtropics, and at a somewhat lower rate in the tropics. These projected increases although drastic, may be conservative given the model underestimations of observed temperature trends. The relatively strong rate of warming over Africa, in combination with the associated increases in extreme temperature events, may be key factors to consider when interpreting the suitability of global mitigation targets in terms of African climate change and climate change adaptation in Africa.
actionable messages for adaptation, African temperatures, climate change, drought index, heat-waves, high fire-danger days, regional climate model projections
Engelbrecht, F. et al. 2015. Projections of rapidly rising surface temperatures over Africa under low mitigation. Environmental Research Letters 10(8):085004.