Weather forecasting and climate modelling for the notoriously unpredictable Sahel region of Africa could be made easier in the future, thanks to new research results coming from the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis study (AMMA).Storm clouds gather during an AMMA Research flight - Dr Jim McQuaid, NCAS, University of Leeds

Storm clouds gather during an AMMA Research flight A recent paper published in Geophysical Research Letters describes how the AMMA scientists gathered new atmospheric data by using satellite imagery to plot flight paths over areas where storms had produced very wet soils.  Dropsondes (weather reconnaissance devices) were launched from a research aircraft above these wet areas to record data such as humidity, wind strength and temperature.  The findings allowed the scientists to compare the atmospheric conditions above wet soils with those above adjacent dry soils.

Lead author Chris Taylor from Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, “Even small patches of moist soils, just ten kilometres across, were found to influence wind patterns.  This provides a mechanism where storms can develop in a region because it rained there several days previously.”

The results of the study will help climate modellers who have traditionally struggled to accurately represent climate in the region and should benefit research on regional climate prediction for other areas of the globe.

The study was jointly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the European Community’s Sixth Framework Research Programme.


Press release

African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis Project

Geophysical Research Letters (Subscription required)