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Pacific sea surface temperature linkages with Tanzania’s multi-season drying trends

January 14, 2019

Droughts in Tanzania pose challenges to agriculture, water resources, and hydropower production, all of which impact livelihoods. Tanzania experienced below average precipitation during 1999-2014 during two important seasons: December to February (DJF) in the south and during March to June (MAMJ) in the northeast. We explore DJF and MAMJ precipitation in the areas with drying trends and examine their relationships with anomalous sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Indo-Pacific and corresponding circulation patterns. It is found that at seasonal time scales, precipitation in DJF and MAMJ trend areas appears inversely related to diabatic forcing in the equatorial Pacific. The dominant influence for droughts in DJF is from eastern Pacific SST while for droughts in MAMJ it is from West Pacific SST. A bivariate regression model with West Pacific and Niño3.4 region SST as predictors is found to recreate multidecadal DJF variability after the 1950s and the extreme drying in MAMJ during the 2000s. The regression model coefficients also indicate differential eastern vs. western Pacific forcing for DJF vs. MAMJ. Thus we suggest that recent La Niña-like conditions, characterized by an enhanced Pacific SST gradient due to cooling in the eastern Pacific and warming in the western Pacific, played a substantial role in Tanzania’s recent multi-season drying trends. SST change scenarios (difference between 2023-2037 and 2000-2014 means) based on CMIP5 projections and observed trends illustrate the uncertainty about future precipitation outcomes and also the potential implications of contrasting linkages to eastern vs. western Pacific SSTs. These scenarios are mainly optimistic for the DJF southern Tanzania trend area, because it appears dominated by Niño3.4 cooling at both seasonal and decadal time scales. Conversely, our scenarios are quite pessimistic for the MAMJ northeastern Tanzania trend area, because we find a dominant negative influence of warming West Pacific SST.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Pacific sea surface temperature linkages with Tanzania’s multi-season drying trends
DOI 10.1002/joc.6003
Authors Laura Harrison, Chris Funk, Amy McNally, Shraddhanand Shukla, Gregory Husak
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses
Index ID 70205059
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center

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