AMMA-2050 NEC05274

Lead Research Organisation: UK Ctr for Ecology & Hydrology fr 011219
Department Name: Hydro-climate Risks

Abstract

The climate of West Africa is subject to some of the most variable rainfall patterns observed anywhere in the world. In the past, the region has suffered several decades of severe droughts, whilst more recently major flood events have struck a number of the region's rapidly expanding cities. The consequences of these climatic extremes for the population have been particularly pronounced due to widespread and severe poverty. Global climate change, coming on top of such a variable and unpredictable regional climate, poses a major threat to the populations and economies of West Africa. Although the pathway from climate change to human suffering in West Africa is very short, there are some key bottlenecks to using climate projections to mitigate against risks to the population. Critical gaps exist in knowledge of how West African climate will change over the course of the 21st century, and the uncertainties make it almost impossible for agencies to deliver well-informed plans for the coming decades in critical areas such as food security, urban development and water. Even with the best climate information, it remains a significant challenge to integrate the scientific knowledge into planning and management structures. This collaborative project between scientists and policy makers in West Africa and Europe will, on the one hand, increase understanding of the regional climate and how it will change, and on the other, apply that knowledge to practical development questions.

One of the key challenges for climate science is to understand how the changing composition of the atmosphere (notably CO2) will impact on the frequency and intensity of extreme events such as floods and droughts. In West Africa, these events are tied to the behaviour of convective rain storms; when storms are particularly intense or occur in rapid succession, devastating floods may result, whilst a week or two without storms during the wet season can trigger crop failure. Climate scientists rely on computer simulations of the global atmosphere, oceans and continents, yet these models have a very crude description of convective storms. For the first time, a new generation of regional climate models is emerging which realistically depict storms, and critically, how storms respond to factors such as land and ocean conditions, and increases in CO2. AMMA-2050 will use these new computer simulations alongside conventional climate models and historical observations, to understand why the statistics of key climate extremes are changing, and what this tells us about climate and its extremes in future decades.

The outputs from the models will be used to examine impacts on key sectors in West African society, notably water and agriculture. Adaptation options will be explored, for example through the use of alternative crops, taking account of the inherent uncertainties in climate information, and the ways in which it is interpreted by decision-makers. We will focus on two questions. Firstly, in Senegal we will identify sustainable agricultural adaptation strategies and the policy frameworks to support those options. Secondly, we will examine how climate changes are likely to affect flooding in the rapidly growing city of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. The research and capacity building work of AMMA-2050 will help develop a new generation of African researchers and decision-makers, well-placed to respond to the requirements of West African nations. Within AMMA-2050, end-users have an important role, and their needs are embedded in project design and delivery, such that outputs will be responsive to their needs, and delivered in a format that is easily used. Enhanced resilience is an important aim of the project: it starts with improving our understanding of the climate signal over West Africa and leads through to decisions being made in specific pilot studies that showcase the importance of using improved and impact-sensitive science outputs.

Planned Impact

The primary impacts of AMMA-2050 will be: the enhanced uptake of the products of climate science in medium term decision-making in West Africa; and the growth of regional expertise in climate science, its impacts and the science-decision making interface.

The AMMA-2050 project combines novel scientific excellence along with fully integrated participation of stakeholders. We are building on the community of researchers and operational partners established in AMMA since 2003, which already has a strong track record of collaborative, multidisciplinary and impact-focused science. Within AMMA-2050 we aim to use this community to derive practical impact from our research, and to demonstrate specific applications of robust climate projections to planning in the agricultural and urban flood-risk sectors.

In order to deliver impact in the use of reliable climate information in these sectors, it is necessary to address the fundamental weaknesses in current climate science and the information it delivers. This physical science research in Pillar 1 of the project will be conducted in very close cooperation with a programme of applied research (Pillar 2) and practical demonstration projects (Pillar 3). Sustained communication among these groups is essential to the delivery of practical outputs that are relevant to users. For example, key measures of high-impact climatic quantities (drought, flooding etc) will be defined within the whole consortium and coordinated at the top level, so that such measures are both useful to users within the demonstration projects, and scientifically rigorous in the climate models. Furthermore, the credibility of climate information relies on the transparent evaluation of the information in terms of its accuracy and reliability. The legitimacy of the climate information will be ensured by the co-production of knowledge by institutions in Africa and Europe and by stakeholders and scientists working together on the project. Since excellent science is a major driver of the work of AMMA-2050, we aim to publish our results in the top peer-reviewed journals, and present the research at national and international meetings.

Existing partnerships and networks are the foundation upon which our communications are built. Within AMMA-2050, stakeholders have a defined role in ensuring the work is demand-led. Our knowledge exchange activities will draw on the networks our partners have in West Africa as well as involving boundary organisations such as the CCKE-Unit. Ongoing engagement of these organisations will ensure outputs of AMMA-2050 are communicated beyond our original list of stakeholders to a wider audience of interest groups. In this, we will work with regional and international agencies such as the Volta Basin Authority (VBA), the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) programme, the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD), the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), and government departments such as the Direction de la Gestion et de la Planification des Ressources en Eau (DGPRE) in Dakar.

The capacity building activities of AMMA-2050 will involve a balance of staff time visiting African and European research centres and policy placements totalling more than 60 months. Alongside attendance at international conferences and annual consortium meetings, plus significant leadership roles, the project will help to develop a skilled workforce and a new generation of leaders in African research. The ultimate beneficiaries of AMMA-2050 will be the populations of West Africa, who will benefit from more effective use of climate information in planning for an uncertain future. This is particularly so in the key areas of food security, via informed adaptive cropping and agricultural policies, and cities which are resilient to future flood risk.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/M020428/1 01/06/2015 30/11/2019 £1,867,472
NE/M020428/2 Transfer NE/M020428/1 01/12/2019 31/03/2021 £97,005