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Respective impacts of Arctic sea ice decline and increasing greenhouse gases concentration on Sahel precipitation

Monerie, Paul-Arthur, Oudar, Thomas, Sanchez-Gomez, Emilia
Climate dynamics 2019 v.52 no.9-10 pp. 5947-5964
Sahel, global warming, greenhouse gases, ice, models, monsoon season, sea level, temperature, tropics, Arctic region, Atlantic Ocean
The impact of climate change on Sahel precipitation is uncertain and has to be widely documented. Recently, it has been shown that Arctic sea ice loss leverages the global warming effects worldwide, suggesting a potential impact of Arctic sea ice decline on tropical regions. However, defining the specific roles of increasing greenhouse gases (GHG) concentration and declining Arctic sea ice extent on Sahel climate is not straightforward since the former impacts the latter. We avoid this dependency by analysing idealized experiments performed with the CNRM-CM5 coupled model. Results show that the increase in GHG concentration explains most of the Sahel precipitation change. We found that the impact due to Arctic sea ice loss depends on the level of atmospheric GHG concentration. When the GHG concentration is relatively low (values representative of 1980s), then the impact is moderate over the Sahel. However, when the concentration in GHG is levelled up, then Arctic sea ice loss leads to increased Sahel precipitation. In this particular case the ocean-land meridional gradient of temperature strengthens, allowing a more intense monsoon circulation. We linked the non-linearity of Arctic sea ice decline impact with differences in temperature and sea level pressure changes over the North Atlantic Ocean. We argue that the impact of the Arctic sea ice loss will become more relevant with time, in the context of climate change.