The rainfall regime of West Africa is highly variable over a large range of space and time scales. With rainfall agriculture being predominent in the region, the local population is extremely vulnerable to intraseasonal dry spells and multi-year droughts as well as to intense rainfall over small time steps. Were this variability to increase, it might render the area close from becoming unhabitable. Anticipating any change is thus crucial from both a societal and a scientific perspective. Despite continuous efforts in Global Climate Model (GCM) development, there is still no agreement on the sign of the future rainfall regime change in the region. Regional Climate Models (RCMs) are used for more accurate projections of future changes as well as end-user-oriented impact studies. In this study, the sensitivity of the Modèle Atmosphérique Régional (MAR) to homogeneous perturbations in boundary forcing air temperature and/or SST is assessed with the aim to better understand (i) the thermodynamical imprint of the recent rainfall regime changes and (ii) the impact of errors in driving data on the West African rainfall regime simulated by an RCM. After an evaluation step where the model is proved to satisfactorily simulate the West African Monsoon (WAM), sensitivity experiments display contrasted, sizable and robust responses of the simulated rainfall regime. The rainfall responses to the boundary forcing perturbations compare in magnitude with the intrinsic model bias, giving support for such an analysis. A physical interpretation of the rainfall anomalies provides confidence in the model response consistency and shows the potential of such an experimental protocol for future climate change downscalling over this region.
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