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Model simulations of rainfall over southern Africa and its eastern escarpment

Zane Dedekind
Francois A. Engelbrecht
Jacobus van der Merwe


Rainfall simulations over southern and tropical Africa in the form of low-resolution Atmospheric Model Intercomparison Project (AMIP) simulations and higher resolution National Centre for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) reanalysis downscalings are presented and evaluated in this paper. The model used is the conformal-cubic atmospheric model (CCAM), a variable-resolution global atmospheric model. The simulations are evaluated with regards to rainfall totals, spatial distribution, seasonality and inter-annual variability. Since both Global Circulation Models (GCMs) and Regional Climate Models (RCMs) are known to have relatively large biases and shortcomings in simulating rainfall over the steep eastern escarpment of southern Africa and in particular Lesotho, the paper has a focus on evaluating model performance over these regions. It is shown that in the reanalysis simulations the model realistically represents the seasonal cycle in rainfall. However, the AMIP simulations are prone to the model overestimating rainfall totals in spring. The spatial distribution of rainfall is simulated realistically; however rainfall totals are significantly overestimated over the escarpment areas of both southern Africa and East Africa. When nudged within the observed circulation patterns of the reanalysis data, the model is capable of realistically simulating inter-annual rainfall variability over the eastern parts of southern Africa.

Keywords: CCAM; conformal-cubic atmospheric model; inter-annual rainfall variability; model simulations; eastern escarpment

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1816-7950
print ISSN: 0378-4738