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Later Wet Seasons with More Intense Rainfall over Africa under Future Climate Change


Changes in the seasonality of precipitation over Africa have high potential for detrimental socioeconomic impacts due to high societal dependence upon seasonal rainfall. Here, for the first time we conduct a continental-scale analysis of changes in wet season characteristics under the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 climate projection scenarios across an ensemble of CMIP5 models using an objective methodology to determine the onset and cessation of the wet season. A delay in the wet season over West Africa and the Sahel of over 5–10 days on average, and later onset of the wet season over southern Africa, is identified and associated with increasing strength of the Saharan heat low in late boreal summer and a northward shift in the position of the tropical rain belt over August–December. Over the Horn of Africa rainfall during the ‘‘short rains’’ season is projected to increase by over 100 mm on average by the end of the twenty-first century under the RCP8.5 scenario. Average rainfall per rainy day is projected to increase, while the number of rainy days in the wet season declines in regions of stable or declining rainfall (western and southern Africa) and remains constant in central Africa, where rainfall is projected to increase. Adaptation strategies should account for shorter wet seasons, increasing rainfall intensity, and decreasing rainfall frequency, which will have implications for crop yields and surface water supplies.