A.M. El Kenawy, M.F. McCabe, S.M. Vicente-Serrano, S.M. Robaa, J.I. Lopez-Moreno
Climate Research, Volume 69, Issue 1, pp. 25-43, (2016)
Aridity, Circulation patterns, Continentality, MENA, Middle east and north Africa, Precipitation, Temperature
A long-term (1960-2013) assessment of the variability of continentality and aridity conditions over the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was undertaken. Monthly gridded temperature and precipitation data from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) (TS3.22 version) were used to compute the Johansson Continentality Index (JCI) and the Marsz Oceanity Index (MOI). In addition, the De Martonne index and the Pinna index were employed to assess recent changes in aridity conditions. All indices revealed a statistically significant increase in continental influences over the region, particularly in the Nile Basin and the Fertile Crescent. For aridity, the results suggested a generally statistically insignificant increase, with the most rapid changes occurring over the most humid regions (i.e. the Ethiopian Highlands and the Fertile Crescent). In order to explain the observed changes in the continentality and aridity conditions, we assessed the relationship between aridity and continentality indices and a wide range of large-scale circulation patterns. Results indicate that the spatial variability of continentality (as well as aridity) was closely coupled with the Atlantic modes of variability, e.g. the Eastern Atlantic pattern and the Atlantic Meridional Mode, compared to those of the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. The results of this work highlight change processes in 2 important climate features in one of the hottest regions on Earth. Improving our understanding of the spatio-temporal characteristics of climate continentality and aridity has implications for a diversity of socio-political, economic, hydrological, and ecological activities in the MENA region.