Delayed Rains in southern Africa

Climate change is expected to impose a considerable burden on many regions of the planet including semi-arid areas and where rainfall is vital for subsidence agriculture, hydropower and livelihoods. There are two large, land-based projected drying trends towards the end of the 21st century, one over the Mediterranean basin and the other over southern Africa. This proposal focuses on southern Africa. In early summer, the southern edge of the African tropical rain belt moves southwards from the Congo Basin bringing with it deep convective clouds which displace the clear skies and stable atmosphere that dominates the southern subtropical African winter. Climate models simulate a future delay in rainfall onset of several weeks and an associated drying in the early summer months of 30% over southern Africa. There are several problems bound up with the projected southern African drying that require urgent attention so that confidence in the emergence of the change can be matched with timely adaptation measures. Prime among them is that the atmospheric dynamics take place in a region with extremely sparse observations, particularly in the lower few kilometres of the atmosphere. We have been awarded funding from NERC to run an observational campaign involving Lidar and radiosondes to recover critical data with which to confront simulations of the rain belt (NE/V011928/1). In preparation for the observational campaigns, we need to learn as much as we can about how reanalyses products and coupled climate models simulate the region. The idea with this summer research placement scheme is to work with undergraduates and DTP postgraduates on elements of the circulation problem over southern Africa. Two DTP students are well placed to join this team (both work on or propose to work on southern African climate) and up to four undergraduates are available for the projects. The opportunity here is that both undergraduates and postgraduates will be embedded in a real, reasonably large research project which engages with models, earth-observation and a field campaign. There are international partners (Univ of Cape Town and Zambia Met Service) involved too, which will give the students an idea of how these collaborations in science work. Instead of research being a lonely affair over the summer, it is intended that the project momentum and relevance will drive the students along.


Undergraduates would need to know their way round Linux and Python.

Maximum Number of Students: 1

If interested, please contact