U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published in Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. (2011) 137: 1241–1256; DOI:10.1002/qj.839


Ground-based radar observations at three distinct geographical locations in West Africa along a common latitudinal band (Niamey, Niger (continental), Kawsara, Senegal (coastal), and Praia, Republic of Cape Verde (maritime)) are analyzed to determine convective system characteristics in each domain during a 29-day period in 2006. Ancillary datasets provided by the African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (AMMA) and NASA-AMMA (NAMMA) field campaigns are also used to place the radar observations in context. Results show that the total precipitation is dominated by propagating mesoscale convective systems. Convective characteristics vary according to environmental properties, such as vertical shear, CAPE, and the degree of synoptic forcing. Data are bifurcated based on the presence or absence of African easterly waves. In general, African easterly waves appear to enhance mesoscale convective system strength characteristics (e.g. total precipitation and vertical reflectivity profiles) at the inland and maritime sites. The wave regime also resulted in an increased population of the largest observed mesoscale convective systems observed near the coast, which led to an increase in stratiform precipitation. Despite this increase, differentiation of convective strength characteristics was less obvious between wave and no-wave regimes at the coast. Owing to the propagating nature of these advecting mesoscale convective systems, interaction with the regional thermodynamic and dynamic environment appears to result inmore variability than enhancements due to the wave regime, independent of location.