1 March, 2018

Robust changes in tropical rainy season length at 1.5°C and 2°C


Fahad Saeed, Ingo Bethke, Erich M. Fischer, Stephanie Legutke, Hideo Shiogama, Daithi Stone, and Carl-Friedrich Schleussner

Changes in the hydrological cycle are among the aspects of climate change most relevant for human systems and ecosystems. Besides trends in overall wetting or drying, changes in temporal characteristics of wetting and drying are of crucial importance in determining the climate hazard posed by such changes. This is particularly the case for tropical regions, where most precipitation occurs during the rainy season and changes in rainy season onset and length have substantial consequences.

Here we present projections for changes in tropical rainy season lengths for mean temperature increase of 1.5°C and 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Based on multi-ensemble quasi-stationary simulations at these warming levels, our analysis indicates robust changes in rainy season characteristics in large parts of the tropics despite substantial natural variability. Specifically, we report a robust shortening of the rainy season for all of tropical Africa as well as north-east Brazil.

About 27% of West Africa is projected to experience robust changes in the rainy season length with a mean shortening of about 7 days under 1.5°C. We find that changes in the temporal characteristics are largely unrelated to changes in overall precipitation, highlighting the importance of investigating both separately.