The African Sahel provides the most dramatic example of multi-decadal climate variability that has been quantitatively and directly measured. Annual rainfall across this region fell by between 20 and 30 per cent between the decades leading up to political independence for the Sahelian nations (1930s to 1950s) and the decades since (1970s to 1990s). Climatic perspectives on the nature and causes of this period of desiccation have changed and, in some cases, matured as the years — and the drought — continued. This paper reviews these changing perspectives and reflects on three central questions: How unique an occurrence has been this desiccation in the recent human history of the Sahel? Can we find an adequate explanation for this desiccation in the natural forces that shape the climate system, or do we have to implicate human interventions in the system? Is our understanding of climate variability sufficient to allow us to develop seasonal rainfall forecasting capabilities for the region?
Global Environmental Change – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2001
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