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Local biomass burning the cause of precipitation decline in southern Africa

Centre news

Biomass burning from cook stoves and agricultural practices is having a profound effect on rainfall reduction in southern Africa.

Results from global and regional modelling demonstrate a 20% to 30% decrease in precipitation during the dry season, with local black carbon and organic carbon aerosol emissions being the main cause. Levels of black carbon can increase by 60% in the June-September dry season and this drying effect is exacerbated by rising carbon dioxide emissions at the global scale, which contribute to an overall decline in precipitation in the region.

The study by researchers from the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo (CICERO) led by Øivind Hodnebrog included Priestley Centre director Piers Forster for the University of Leeds. It is published in Nature Communications today (12 April 2016). It concludes that reducing aerosol emissions from local biomass burning could mitigate reduced rainfall in southern Africa, which has seen a steady decline since the 1950s with implications for water, energy and food security.