A Multivariate Analysis of Freshwater Variability over West Africa

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Samuel Ato Andam-Akorful1, Xiufeng He2, Vagner G Ferreira2 and Jonathan A Quaye-Ballard1, (1)Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, (2)Hohai University, School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, Nanjing, China
As one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, West Africa (WA) has since the 1970s suffered sustained reduction in rainfall amounts, leading to droughts and associated negative impacts on its water resources. Although rainfall rates have been reported to have experienced a degree of recovery, dry conditions persist. Additionally, the region faces perennial flooding, thus resulting in a highly variable hydrologic regime due to the extreme climate conditions. This therefore necessitates routine monitoring of the WA’s freshwater reserves and its response to climate variations at the short and long term scales to aid sustainable use and management. However, this monitoring is hampered by data deficiency issues within the region. Consequently, dynamics leading to changes in water availability over the region are not completely understood. In this work, the recent flux and state of freshwater availability over WA from 1979 to 2013 is assessed by investigating the coupled variability of GRACE-derived terrestrial water storage (TWS) and its changes (TWSC) estimates with rainfall, evapotranspiration, and land surface air temperature (LSAT), as well as, major global and regional teleconnection indices using complex principal component analysis and wavelet transforms. Since GRACE covers a relatively short period, and thereby present challenges for long to medium term analyses, Artificial Neural Network (ANN) is employed to extend the GRACE series to 1979. The results from the ANN proved to be robust upon evaluation; spatially-averaged series for major basins and sub-climatic zones, as well as, the whole of WA presented RMSE, Nash-Sutcliffe efficient, and coefficient of determination (R2) of 11.83 mm, 0.76 and 0.89 respectively. Overall, the results obtained from this study indicate that, sustained increase in water flux, in terms of TWSC, contributed to a resurgence in freshwater reserves in the 21st century over WA from the low levels in the late 20th century. This recovery in TWS exhibits a positive coherence with inter-decadal rainfall and an inversed coupling to inter-decadal evapotranspiration rates. The increased TWS amount, resulting from increased rainfall are primarily driven by low frequency sea surface temperatures oscillations in the Atlantic Ocean.