Towards an understanding of coupled physical and biological processes in the cultivated Sahel – 1. Energy and water

Abstract : s u m m a r y This paper presents an analysis of the coupled cycling of energy and water by semi-arid Sahelian surfaces, based on two years of continuous vertical flux measurements from two homogeneous recording stations in the Wankama catchment, in the West Niger meso-site of the AMMA project. The two stations, sited in a millet field and in a semi-natural fallow savanna plot, sample the two dominant land cover types in this area typical of the cultivated Sahel. The 2-year study period enables an analysis of seasonal variations over two full wet-dry seasons cycles, characterized by two contrasted rain seasons that allow capturing a part of the interannual variability. All components of the surface energy budget (four-component radiation budget, soil heat flux and temperature, eddy fluxes) are measured independently, allowing for a quality check through analysis of the energy balance closure. Water cycle monitoring includes rainfall, evapotranspiration (from vapour eddy flux), and soil moisture at six depths. The main modes of observed variability are described, for the various energy and hydrological variables investigated. Results point to the dominant role of water in the energy cycle variability, be it seasonal, interannual, or between land cover types. Rainfall is responsible for nearly as much seasonal variations of most energy-related variables as solar forcing. Depending on water availability and plant requirements , evapotranspiration preempts the energy available from surface forcing radiation, over the other dependent processes (sensible and ground heat, outgoing long wave radiation). In the water budget, pre-emption by evapotranspiration leads to very large variability in soil moisture and in deep percolation, seasonally, interannually, and between vegetation types. The wetter 2006 season produced more evapotranspiration than 2005 from the fallow but not from the millet site, reflecting differences in plant development. Rain-season evapotranspiration is nearly always lower at the millet site. Higher soil moisture at this site suggests that this difference arises from lower vegetation requirements rather than from lower infiltration/higher runoff. This difference is partly compensated for during the next dry season. Effects of water and vegetation on the energy budget appear to occur more through latent heat than through albedo. A large part of albedo variability comes from soil wetting and drying. Prior to the onset of monsoon rain, the change in air mass temperature and wind produces , through modulation of sensible heat, a marked chilling effect on the components of the surface energy budget.
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David Ramier, Nicolas Boulain, Bernard Cappelaere, Franck Timouk, Manon Rabanit, et al.. Towards an understanding of coupled physical and biological processes in the cultivated Sahel – 1. Energy and water. Journal of Hydrology, Elsevier, 2009, 375 (1-2), pp.204-216. ⟨10.1016/j.jhydrol.2008.12.002⟩. ⟨ird-02153406⟩

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