Sahel droughts and Enso dynamics



Correlations between summer Sahel rainfall and Southern Oscillation Index has increased during the last thirty years. At high frequency time scale (periods lower than 8 years), an intertropical Atlantic zonal divergent circulation anomaly is forced by the difference of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies between the eastern equatorial parts of Pacific and Atlantic. This zonal connection worked well during most of the El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events occurring after 1970; positive/negative SST anomalies in the eastern Pacific/Atlantic led to rainfall deficits over the whole West Africa. At low frequency time scale (periods greater than 8 years), positive SST anomalies in the Indian ocean and in equatorial Pacific existing after 1970 have been associated with decreasing rainfall intensity over West Africa through another zonal divergent circulation. These different time scales remote SST forcings are combined to provide a global zonal divergent circulation anomaly pattern which could explain the strong association between Sahel drought and ENSO dynamics after 1970.