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Title: Observed positive vegetation-rainfall feedbacks in the Sahel dominated by a moisture recycling mechanism

Classic, model-based theory of land-atmosphere interactions across the Sahel promote positive vegetation-rainfall feedbacks dominated by surface albedo mechanism. However, neither the proposed positive vegetation-rainfall feedback nor its underlying albedo mechanism has been convincingly demonstrated using observational data. Here, we present observational evidence for the region’s proposed positive vegetation-rainfall feedback on the seasonal to interannual time scale, and find that it is associated with a moisture recycling mechanism, rather than the classic albedo-based mechanism. Positive anomalies of remotely sensed vegetation greenness across the Sahel during the late and post-monsoon periods favor enhanced evapotranspiration, precipitable water, convective activity and rainfall, indicative of amplified moisture recycling. The identified modest low-level cooling and anomalous atmospheric subsidence in response to positive vegetation greenness anomalies are counter to the responses expected through the classic vegetation-albedo feedback mechanism. The observational analysis further reveals enhanced dust emissions in response to diminished Sahel vegetation growth, potentially contributing to the positive vegetation-rainfall feedback.
ORCiD logo [1] ;  [2] ;  [2] ; ORCiD logo [3] ;  [3] ;  [3]
  1. Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States). Nelson Inst. Center for Climatic Research; California Inst. of Technology (CalTech), Pasadena, CA (United States). Jet Propulsion Lab.
  2. Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States). Nelson Inst. Center for Climatic Research
  3. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Environmental Sciences Division. Climate Change Science Inst.
Publication Date:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 8; Journal ID: ISSN 2041-1723
Nature Publishing Group
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States); Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23); National Science Foundation (NSF)
Country of Publication:
United States
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; atmospheric dynamics; hydrology
OSTI Identifier: