IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis Extremes

Research on changes in extremes specific to Africa, in either models or observations, is limited. A general increase in the intensity of high-rainfall events, associated in part with the increase in atmospheric water vapour, is expected in Africa, as in other regions. Regional modelling and downscaling results (Tadross et al., 2005a) both support an increase in the rainfall intensity in southern Africa. In regions of mean drying, there is generally a proportionally larger decrease in the number of rain days, indicating compensation between intensity and frequency of rain. In the downscaling results of Hewitson and Crane (2006) and Tadross et al. (2005a), changes in the median precipitation event magnitude at the station scale do not always mirror the projected changes in seasonal totals.

There is little modelling guidance on possible changes in tropical cyclones affecting the southeast coast of Africa. Thermodynamic arguments for increases in precipitation rates and intensity of tropical storms (see Chapter 10) are applicable to these Indian Ocean storms as for other regions, but changes in frequency and spatial distribution remain uncertain. In a time-slice simulation with a 20-km resolution AGCM, Oouchi et al. (2006) obtain a significant reduction in the frequency of tropical storms in the Indian Ocean.

Using the definition of ‘extreme seasons’ given in Section 11.1.2, the probability of extremely warm, wet and dry seasons, as estimated by the MMD models, is provided in Table 11.1. As in most tropical regions, all seasons are extremely warm by the end of the 21st century, with very high confidence under the A1B scenario. Although the mean precipitation response in West Africa is less robust than in East Africa, the increase in the number of extremely wet seasons is comparable in both, increasing to roughly 20% (i.e., 1 in 5 of the seasons are extremely wet, as compared to 1 in 20 in the control period in the late 20th century). In southern Africa, the frequency of extremely dry austral winters and springs increases to roughly 20%, while the frequency of extremely wet austral summers doubles in this ensemble of models.