West African summer monsoon precipitation is characterized by distinct decadal variability. Due to its well-documented link to oceanic boundary conditions in various ocean basins it represents a paradigm for decadal predictability. In this study, we reappraise this hypothesis for several sub-regions of sub-Saharan West Africa using the new German contribution to the coupled model intercomparison project phase 5 (CMIP5) near-term prediction system. In addition, we assume that dynamical downscaling of the global decadal predictions leads to an enhanced predictive skill because enhanced resolution improves the atmospheric response to oceanic forcing and land-surface feedbacks. Based on three regional climate models, a heterogeneous picture is drawn: none of the regional climate models outperforms the global decadal predictions or all other regional climate models in every region nor decade. However, for every test case at least one regional climate model was identified which outperforms the global predictions. The highest predictive skill is found in the western and central Sahel Zone with correlation coefficients and mean-square skill scores exceeding 0.9 and 0.8, respectively.
EPIC Alfred Wegener Institut