Investigating processes of future change in African rainfall systems to support water management and climate policy decisions

13 June 2018, 4.00 PM - 13 June 2018, 5.00 PM

Peel Lecture Theatre, School of Geographical Sciences

A BRIDGE seminar by Rachel James, ECI Research Fellow: Climate Modelling for Climate Services, University of Oxford.

Nb: This event is only open to University of Bristol staff and students.


African countries are amongst the most vulnerable to climate change, and governments and businesses in Africa are beginning to plan for future changes in climate, including rising temperatures, and changes in flooding, drought, and water availability. However, it is very difficult for climate scientists to provide information to guide such climate change adaptation. This challenge is partly associated with uncertainties inherent in projecting long term climate change, but exacerbated by the limited research attention given to tropical and African climates relative to the mid-latitudes. Often, uncertainty in future climate is either addressed through statistical approaches to identify most likely outcomes, or robust decision making approaches which consider all possible futures. In this seminar, I will suggest that there is potential to develop more physically-based climate information through process-based analysis of climate model data, to improve understanding of climate dynamics in African regions, and identify plausible future responses. I will present several examples of this process-based approach, including an analysis of extreme drying projected over the West African Sahel linked to changes in the meridional monsoon circulation, and ongoing work to interrogate future projections over southern Africa, including those associated with changes in tropical-extratropical cloud bands. The latter project is designed to support decision-making in the Shire Valley in Malawi, where water managers face potential trade-offs between irrigation and hydropower, and information about changing water availability could be useful for long term planning. The presentation will examine how the analysis of southern African climate dynamics might support such decision-making, and further explore the relevance of the approach for international climate policy. I hope the seminar will be of interest to a range of climate researchers, and would like to engage with scientists working on other timescales (paleoclimate, attribution, shorter term forecasting) to bolster process understanding. I am also very keen to engage with experts in hydrology, risk analysis, decision making, and beyond.

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