Saturday, September 12, 2009

More time to unravel the African monsoon

Carol Campbell in SciDev.net: A seven-year research programme delving into the mechanisms of the African monsoon will be extended for another ten years, it was announced yesterday. The African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA), which began in 2002, was supposed to finish this year.

AMMA scientists from Africa, Europe and the United States unveiled their research on the African monsoon, a period of intense rainfall that provides much of West Africa's rain, in Paris yesterday (10 September). The monsoon arrives in summer after temperature changes shift moisture-laden winds from the Atlantic Ocean over the land. It depends on a complex relationship between the temperature, pressure and moisture of the oceans, land and atmosphere.

The researchers have found that the onset of the monsoon — an important moment that determines when farmers sow crops — appears to follow the formation of a 'tongue' of cold water in the Gulf of Guinea. This phenomenon could increase the accuracy of monsoon prediction and improve scientists' understanding of the role of the Atlantic Ocean in its formation.

AMMA will continue to analyse activity in the Gulf of Guinea, with more work planned on weather and climate forecasts and early warning systems, Jean-Luc Redelsperger, chair of AMMA's International Scientific Steering Committee, told SciDev.Net….

Bareina, a small desert village in the south of Mauritania, West Africa. A view of the sky just minutes before rain started. Shot by Ferdinand Reus from Arnhem, Holland, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License