A quarter of a century of daily rainfall data from the Global Telecommunications System are used to define the temporal and spatial variability of the start of the wet season over Africa and surrounding extreme south of Europe and parts of the Middle East. From 1978 to 2002, the start of the wet season arrived later in the year for the majority of the region, as time progressed. In some parts of the continent, there was an annual increase in the start date of up to 4 days per year. On average, the start of the wet season arrived 9–21 days later from 1978 to 2002, depending on the threshold used to define the start of the rains (varying from 10–30 mm over 2 days, with no dry period in the following 10 days). It is noted that the inter-annual variability of the start of the wet season is high with the range of start dates varying on average from 116 to 142 days dependent on the threshold used to determine the start date. These results may have important implications for agriculturists on all levels (from the individual farmer to those responsible for regional food supply), as knowledge of potential future climate changes starts to play an increasingly important role in the agricultural decision-making process, such as sowing and harvesting times. Copyright © 2008 Royal Meteorological Societ
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