What Controls Runoff Ratios in the Congo Basin?

Friday, 19 December 2014: 10:50 AM
Rui Wei, Ohio State University Main Campus, Columbus, OH, United States and Michael T Durand, Ohio St Univ-Earth Sciences, Columbus, OH, United States
As the second-largest river globally, the Congo is a critical part of large-scale water, energy, and carbon cycles, and thus has a significant influence on regional climate. The runoff ratio is a coefficient relating runoff to precipitation; it is a parameter that integrates and summarizes upstream hydrologic processes. The Budyko equation depicts the expected partitioning of precipitation (P) into evapotranspiration (E) and runoff (R): P=R+E. It is hypothesized that radiation and precipitation are primary controls of the partitioning process; the effects of the surface control (e.g. soil and slope) are implicitly assumed to be minor. In this study, we explored thirty years of data in the Congo River basin. We will correlate the runoff ratio to a variety of factors, including precipitation, radiation and surface controls (e.g. soil, slope). Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) by pentad precipitation was used as primary precipitation data, and Climatic Research Unit (CRU) by data was used for comparison. For discharge and drainage area were derived from Global Runoff Data Centre (GRDC), and net radiation is from NASA Earth Observatory. Congo sub basins are analyzed as well.

Interannual variability in the runoff ratio for the Congo basin ranged from 0.2 to 0.3, but was generally uncorrelated with precipitation. Runoff is generally uncorrelated with precipitation, whereas evapotranspiration calculated as residual (P-R) is highly correlated with precipitation, with E ranging from 1000 to 1300 mm per year, and P explaining 85% of the variance. Spatial variability was explored by analysis of long-term mean runoff ratio for 10 sub-basins. Spatially, both R and runoff ratio are highly correlated with P, with P explaining 59% of the variance in the runoff ratio. Physical mechanisms to explain these results are explored, and the implications for the Congo’s role in partitioning rainfall over sub-Saharan Africa are discussed.