The Carbon Mitigation Initiative (CMI) recognized CIMES Researcher Yujin Zeng, an AOS associate research scholar, at the CMI Annual Meeting for outstanding published research.
Zeng was awarded the Robert H. Socolow Best Paper Award for Postdoctoral Fellows for his CMI-supported paper, “Possible anthropogenic enhancement of precipitation in the Sahel-Sudan savanna by remote agricultural irrigation,” which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in March. His co-authors included Elena Shevliakova, a GFDL senior climate modeler, and Sergey Malyshev, a GFDL professional specialist.
The paper used an earth-system model to examine the impact of expanded agricultural irrigation on precipitation in remote areas. The researchers found that irrigation in the Middle East and South Asia may enhance rainfall in a large portion of the Sahel-Sudan savanna that spans Africa south of the Sahara Desert. This enhancement arises through a change in the large-scale patterns of atmospheric moisture and temperature that exist from the Sahara to the tropical rainforests of Central Africa.
The study found that rainfall in the savanna was magnified to a similar extent as other human-made climate drivers such as greenhouse emissions suppress precipitation. This means that the expansion of irrigation in far-off regions should be considered as a possible factor affecting the risk of drought and famine in the Sahel-Sudan savanna. In addition, the region’s future water security could be affected by water management and ongoing groundwater depletion in South Asia and by the pace of rehabilitation of the war-damaged irrigation infrastructure in the Tigris-Euphrates valley.