Interaction of Vegetation and Atmospheric Dynamical Mechanisms in the mid-Holocene African Monsoon

Katrina Hales, J. David Neelin and Ning Zeng
J. Climate, 19, 4105-4120.

Paper (PDF 4.7 MB)
© Copyright 2006 by the American Meteorological Society.

Abstract. Paleo-evidence indicates generally wetter conditions exisited in the Sahara during the mid-Holocene. Climate modeling studies addressing this issue generally agree that mid-Holocene values of Earth's orbital parameters favored an enhanced North African summer monsoon, but also suggest that land surface and vegetation feedbacks must have been an important factor. Attempts to reproduce the ``green'' mid-Holocene Sahara in model studies with interactive vegetation may be interpreted to indicate that the problem is highly sensitive to the atmospheric dynamics of each model employed. In other work, dynamical mechanisms have been hypothesized to affect monsoon poleward extent, particularly ventilation by import of low moist static energy air to the continent. Here, interactive vegetation and the ventilation mechanism are studied in an intermediate complexity atmospheric model coupled to simple land and vegetation components. Interactive vegetation is found to be effective at enhancing precipitation and vegetation amount in regions where the monsoon has advanced due to changes in orbital parameters or ventilation, yet not very effective in moving the monsoon boundary if ventilation is strong. The poleward extent of the mid-Holocene monsoon and the steppe boundary are primarily controlled by the strength of ventilation in the atmospheric model. Within this boundary the largest changes in monsoon precipitation and vegetation occur when interactive vegetation and reduced ventilation act simultaneously, as these greatly reinforce each other.

Citation. Hales, K., J. D. Neelin and N. Zeng, 2006: Interaction of Vegetation and Atmospheric Dynamical Mechanisms in the mid-Holocene African Monsoon J. Climate, 19, 4105-4120.

Acknowledgments. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grant ATM-0082529.
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