The regional climate impact of a realistic future deforestation scenario in the congo basin

  • Akkermans T
  • Thiery W
  • Van Lipzig N
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The demand for agricultural land in the Congo basin is expected to yield substantial deforestation over the coming decades. Although several studies exist on the climatological impact of deforestation in the Congo basin, deforestation scenarios that are implemented in climate models are generally crude. This study aims to refine current impact assessments by removing the primary forest according to an existing spatially explicit scenario, and replacing it by successional vegetation typically observed for the Congo basin. This is done within the Consortium for Small-Scale Modeling (COSMO) model in climate mode (COSMO-CLM), a re- gional climate model at 25-km grid spacing coupled to a state-of-the-art soil–vegetation–atmosphere transfer scheme (Community Land Model). An evaluation of the model shows good performance compared to in situ and satellite observations. Model integrations indicate that the deforestation, expected for the middle of the twenty-first century, induces a warming of about 0.78C. This is about half the greenhouse gas–induced surface warming in this region, given an intermediate emission scenario (A1B) with COSMO-CLM driven by the ECHAM5 global climate model. This shows the necessity of taking into account deforestation to obtain realistic future climate projections. The deforestation-induced warming can be attributed to reduced evap- oration, but this effect is mitigated by increased albedo and increased sensible heat loss to the atmosphere. Precipitation is also affected: as a consequence of surface warming resulting from deforestation, a regional heat low develops over the rain forest region. Resulting low-level convergence causes a redistribution of moisture in the boundary layer and a stabilization of the atmospheric column, thereby reducing convection intensity and hence precipitation by 5%–10% in the region of the heat low. 1.

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  • Tom Akkermans

  • Wim Thiery

  • Nicole P.M. Van Lipzig

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