Opportunities for Hydrologic Research in the Congo Basin

Friday, 19 December 2014: 12:05 PM
Douglas E Alsdorf, Ohio State University Main Campus, Columbus, OH, United States, Edward Beighley II, Northeastern University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Boston, MA, United States, Hyongki Lee, University of Houston, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Houston, TX, United States, Raphael Tshimanga, University of Kinshasa, Dept. Natural Resources Management, Kinshasa, Congo, Robert G Spencer, Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, MA, United States and Fiachra O'Loughlin, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
We review the published results on the Congo Basin hydrology and find that there are historic data, ongoing measurement recording efforts, and important model results. Annual rainfall is ~2000 mm/yr along an east-west trend, decreasing northward and southward to ~1100 mm/yr. While some studies show rain gauges at specific locations with declines in P greater than 10% from 1960 to 1990, other studies suggest that basin wide decreases from 1951 to 1993 are modest at 4.5% or that the trend is minimal. Studies during the 1950s using lysimeters, pans, and models suggest that the annual potential ET varies little across the basin at a 1100 mm/yr to 1200 mm/yr. Over the past century, river discharge data has been collected at 100s of stream gauges with historic and recent data at 96 locations now publicly available. Discharge of the Congo River at Kinshasa-Brazzaville experienced an increase of 21% during 1960-1970 in comparison to background values of the previous decades and of today. There does not appear to be a long-term discharge trend over the century of record. Satellite altimetry measurements collected during high and low flows show that the Cuvette Centrale wetland water levels are consistently 0.5m to 3m higher in elevation than the immediately adjacent Congo River levels. Wetland water depths are shallow at about 1m whereas the Congo is typically less than 15m deep everywhere upstream of Kinshasa. The wetlands do not appear to be marked by sizable channels such that the flows are diffusive. CO2 and CH4 evasion from the Congo waters directly to the atmosphere are estimated at 1.6 to 3.2 Tg/yr for CH4 from the Cuvette wetland waters and 105 to 204 g C/m2/yr for CO2 from waters of the Oubangui River. Using these published results, we suggest seven hypotheses that may lead to important water and carbon cycle discoveries. These hypotheses focus on the source of the Cuvette waters and how those waters leave the wetland; on river discharge generated by historic rainfall; on the connection between climate change and the rainfall-runoff generated by the ITCZ; on deforestation and hydroelectric power generation; and on the amount of carbon emitted from Congo waters. To address these hypotheses, the Congo research community will need to work together to host meetings, share ideas, access data, ensure funding, and provide infrastructural support.