Reanalysis products are often taken as an alternative solution to observational weather and climate data due to availability and accessibility problems, particularly in data-sparse regions such as Africa. Proper evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses, however, should not be overlooked. The aim of this study was to evaluate the performance of ERA5 reanalysis and to document the progress made compared to ERA-interim for the fields of near-surface temperature and precipitation over Africa. Results show that in ERA5 the climatological biases in temperature and precipitation are clearly reduced and the representation of inter-annual variability is improved over most of Africa. However, both reanalysis products performed less well in terms of capturing the observed long-term trends, despite a slightly better performance of ERA5 over ERA-interim. Further regional analysis over East Africa shows that the representation of the annual cycle of precipitation is substantially improved in ERA5 by reducing the wet bias during the rainy season. The spatial distribution of precipitation during extreme years is also better represented in ERA5. While ERA5 has improved much in comparison to its predecessor, there is still demand for improved products with even higher resolution and accuracy to satisfy impact-based studies, such as in agriculture and water resources.
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