Assessing the climate change impact on the North African offshore surface wind and coastal low-level jet using coupled and uncoupled regional climate simulations

Soares PMM, Lima DCA, Semedo A, Cardoso RM, Cabos W, Sein D
Climate Dynamics. 52, 711-7132. DOI: 10.1007/s00382-018-4565-9

Download PDF


The North African Coastal Low-Level Jet (NACLLJ) is a semi-permanent feature offshore the north western African coast, linked to the cold nearshore upwelling of the Canary Eastern Boundary Current system. Its main synoptic drivers are the Azores Anticyclone over the ocean and the inland Sahara thermal low. The coastal jet events occur in one of the world’s most productive fisheries region, thus the evaluation of the effects of global warming in its properties is imperative. This study proposes an analysis of the annual and intra-annual attributes of the NACLLJ for two time periods 1976–2005 (historical) and 2070–2199 (future), resorting to coupled and uncoupled atmosphere–ocean simulations with the ROM model, as well as near surface offshore wind speed from the CORDEX-Africa ensemble. The future simulations follow the RCP8.5 greenhouse gas emissions scenario. Overall, the ROM coupled simulation presents the best performance in reproducing the present-climate near surface wind speed, offshore northwest Africa, compared to the remaining RCM simulations. The higher SST resolution in the coupled simulations favours much localised colder upwelling strips near the coast and consequently stronger jets. In future climate, a small increase in the surface wind speed is projected, mainly linked to the regions of coastal jet presence. The NACLLJ is projected to be more frequent and intense, encompassing larger areas. An increase of the jet seasonal frequencies of occurrence is projected for all seasons, which is larger from spring to autumn (up to 15, 16 and 22% more frequent, respectively). However, in some offshore areas the winter NACLLJ persistency is likely to double, relatively to present-climate. Higher inter-annual variability is also projected for the future NACLLJ seasonal frequencies. The strengthening of the coastal jet speeds is also significant, between 5 and 12% in all seasons. Additionally, the jet’s diurnal cycle shows an increase in jet occurrence across the day, particularly in the mid and late afternoon.