University of Sussex
Lazenby, Melissa J..pdf (11.84 MB)

Evaluating model performance and constraining uncertainty using a processed-based framework for Southern African precipitation in historical and future climate projections

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posted on 2023-06-09, 06:33 authored by Melissa LazenbyMelissa Lazenby
This thesis develops an innovative process-based analysis of contemporary model performance of precipitation over southern Africa. This region is typically understudied and not fully understood due to the complexity of various influences and drivers of precipitation. Historical simulations of precipitation are assessed including principal drivers, sources of biases and dominant modes of interannual variability. The South Indian Ocean Convergence Zone (SIOCZ), a large-scale, austral summer rainfall feature extending across southern Africa into the south-west Indian Ocean, is evaluated as the feature of interest in historical simulations. Most CMIP5 models simulate an SIOCZ feature, but are typically too zonally oriented and discontinued between land and the adjacent Indian Ocean. Excessive precipitation over the continent is likely associated with excessively high low-level moisture flux around the Angola Low, which is almost entirely due to model circulation biases. Drivers of precipitation over southern Africa include three dominant moisture flux transport pathways which originate from flow around the SIOHP and SAOHP and monsoon winds. Interannual variability in the SIOCZ is shown by a clear dipole pattern, indicative of a northeast-southwest movement of the SIOCZ. Drivers of this shift are significantly related to the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the subtropical Indian Ocean dipole in observations. However models do not capture these teleconnections well, limiting confidence in model representation of variability. A large majority of the population rely heavily on precipitation over southern Africa for agricultural purposes. Therefore spatial and temporal changes in precipitation are crucial to identify and understand with intentions to ultimately provide useful climate information regarding water security over the region. Key climate change signals over southern Africa are established in this thesis (OND and DJF), in which the dominant regional mechanisms of precipitation change over southern Africa are quantified. Robustness and credibility of these changes are additionally quantified. The most notable projected change in precipitation over southern Africa is the distinct drying signal evident in the pre-summer season (OND). This has the implication of delaying the onset of the rainy season affecting planting and harvesting times. Future projections of the SIOCZ are determined, which indicate a northward shift of approximately 200km. A dipole pattern of precipitation wetting/drying is evident, where wetting occurs to the north of the climatological axis of maximum rainfall, hence implying a northward shift of the ITCZ, consistent with the SIOCZ shift. Using a decomposition method it is established that ?P’s dipole pattern emerges largely from the dynamic component, which holds most uncertainty, particularly over the south-west Indian Ocean. Changes in precipitation over land are not solely driven by dynamical changes but additionally driven by thermodynamic contributions, implying projected changes over land and ocean regions require different approaches. SST patterns of warming over the Indian Ocean corroborate the warmest-get-wetter mechanism driving wetting over the south-west Indian Ocean, which is robust in both key seasons. Coherent model behaviour is understood via across model correlation plots of principal components, whereby patterns of coherent warming patterns are identified. Composite analyses of diagnostic variables across models illustrate patterns driving projected precipitation changes. Drying is more robust over land than over the south-west Indian Ocean. Clear robust drying signal in OND, however magnitude is uncertain. Drivers of uncertainty include SST pattern changes, which modulate atmospheric circulation patterns. Therefore reductions in uncertainty rely on the accurate representation of these processes within climate models to become more robust. There is a desire from both climate scientists and policy-makers to reduce uncertainty in future projections. No one particular methodology is unanimously agreed upon, however one approach is analysed in this thesis. Uncertainties of future precipitation projections are addressed using a process-based model ranking framework. Several metrics most applicable to southern African climate are selected and ranked, which include aspects of both mean state and variability. A sensitivity test via a Monte Carlo approach is performed for various sub-samples of “top” performing models within the CMIP5 model dataset. Uncertainty is significantly reduced when particular sub-sets of “top” performing models are selected, however only for austral summer over the continent. The result has the implication that potential value is established in performing a process-based model ranking over southern Africa. However additional investigation is required before such an approach may become viable and sufficiently credible and robust. Reductions in model spread are additionally established in SIOCZ projections, whereby model processes of change exhibit agreement, despite differing initial SIOCZ conditions. Therefore model process convergence and coherence is established with respect to projected changes in the SIOCZ, irrespective of initial climatology biases.


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University of Sussex

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