Classic, model-based theory of land-atmosphere interactions across the Sahel promote positive vegetation-rainfall feedbacks dominated by surface albedo mechanism. However, neither the proposed positive vegetation-rainfall feedback nor its underlying albedo mechanism has been convincingly demonstrated using observational data. Here, we present observational evidence for the region’s proposed positive vegetation-rainfall feedback on the seasonal to interannual time scale, and find that it is associated with a moisture recycling mechanism, rather than the classic albedo-based mechanism. Positive anomalies of remotely sensed vegetation greenness across the Sahel during the late and post-monsoon periods favor enhanced evapotranspiration, precipitable water, convective activity and rainfall, indicative of amplified moisture recycling. The identified modest low-level cooling and anomalous atmospheric subsidence in response to positive vegetation greenness anomalies are counter to the responses expected through the classic vegetation-albedo feedback mechanism. The observational analysis further reveals enhanced dust emissions in response to diminished Sahel vegetation growth, potentially contributing to the positive vegetation-rainfall feedback.
Nature Communications – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 30, 2017
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