Possible Anthropogenic Enhancement of Precipitation in the Sahel-Sudan Savanna by Remote Agricultural Irrigation
The local climatic impacts of historical expansion of irrigation are substantial, but the distant impacts are poorly understood, and their governing mechanisms generally have not been rigorously analyzed. Our experiments with an earth-system model suggest that irrigation in the Middle East and South Asia may enhance rainfall in a large portion of the Sahel-Sudan Savanna (SSS) to an extent comparable and opposite to its suppression by other anthropogenic climate drivers during the last several decades. The enhancement arises through a reduction in the meridional gradient of moist static energy from the Sahara Desert to the tropical rainforests. An implication of this study is that remote irrigation is a possible factor affecting the risk of drought and famine and, thus, future water security in the SSS region.