Geophysical Research Letters

A Lagrangian identification of major sources of Sahel moisture

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Abstract

[1] The drying trend in the Sahelian region from the 1950s to the 1990s was a hotspot of decadal-scale changes in the climate of the 20th century. However, the sources of moisture in this region have been poorly studied. Motivated by the excellent skills of a new Lagrangian method of diagnosis for identifying the sources of moisture over a region (Stohl and James, 2004, 2005), this study examines the main sources over the Sahel. The method computes budgets of evaporation minus precipitation by calculating changes in the specific humidity along the trajectories. We tracked the air masses residing over the Sahel over a period of five years (2000–2004). Recycling was identified as the major source of moisture over the Sahel. Two additional sources of moisture reaching Sahel have been identified here, namely; 1) a band in the North Atlantic stretching between the Sahel and Iberia, and 2) the entire Mediterranean basin, and the nearby Red Sea.

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