Identification of a Pertinent Referential Period for Drought Definition in the West African Soudano-Sahelian Zone from Precipitation

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Boubacar Ibrahim1, Dominik Wisser2 and Boubacar Barry1, (1)West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL), Competence Center, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, (2)University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany
Many studies have been undertaken on climate variability analysis in West Africa since the drastic drought recorded at the beginning of the 1970s. The variability highlighted by these studies relies in many cases on different baseline periods chosen with regard to the data available or to the reference periods defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). However, the significance of the change in a time series for a given period is determined from some statistical tests. We develop in this study a statistical method to identify a pertinent reference period for rainfall and temperature variability analysis in the West African Soudano-Sahelian zone. The method is based on an application of three tests of homogeneity in time series and three tests of shift detection in time series. The pertinent reference period is defined as a period of more than 20 years and homogeneous with regard to the main climate parameters (rainfall and temperature).

The application of the method on four different gridded climate data from 1901 to 2012 shows that the 1945-1970 period is the longest homogeneous period with regard to the annual rainfall amount. An assessment of the significance of the difference between the confidence interval at the level of 95% around the average during this period and the annual rainfall amounts time series shows that the normal amount is between -10% and +10% of that average. Thus, with regard to that referential period, a wet (dry) year is defined with a surplus (gap) of 10% in the annual rainfall amount above (below) this average. The decadal proportions of wet and dry years reveal that the 1971-1980 period presents the most important number of significant dry years with 1984 as the driest year over the whole 1901-2012 period. The drought periods recorded in the region are mainly characterized by segments of consecutive dry years that had severe impacts on crop production and livestock.

Key words:  climate variability; climate change; drought; reference period; Soudano-Sahel; West Africa