This study analyses observed and projected climatic trends over Ethiopia, through analysis of temperature and rainfall records and related meteorological fields. The observed datasets include gridded station records and reanalysis products; while projected trends are analysed from coupled model simulations drawn from the IPCC 4th Assessment. Upward trends in air temperature of + 0.03 °C year−1 and downward trends in rainfall of − 0.4 mm month−1 year−1 have been observed over Ethiopia's southwestern region in the period 1948-2006. These trends are projected to continue to 2050 according to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab model using the A1B scenario. Large scale forcing derives from the West Indian Ocean where significant warming and increased rainfall are found. Anticyclonic circulations have strengthened over northern and southern Africa, limiting moisture transport from the Gulf of Guinea and Congo. Changes in the regional Walker and Hadley circulations modulate the observed and projected climatic trends. Comparing past and future patterns, the key features spread westward from Ethiopia across the Sahel and serve as an early warning of potential impacts.