Sustained Water Storage in Horn of Africa Drylands Dominated by Seasonal Rainfall Extremes

Markus Adloff*, Michael Bliss Singer, David A. MacLeod, Katerina Michaelides, Nooshin Mehrnegar, Eleanor Hansford, Chris Funk, Daniel Mitchell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Rural communities in the Horn of Africa Drylands (HADs) are increasingly vulnerable to multi-season droughts due to the strong dependence of livelihoods on seasonal rainfall. We analyzed multiple observational rainfall data sets for recent decadal trends in mean and extreme seasonal rainfall, as well as satellite-derived terrestrial water storage and soil moisture trends arising from two key rainfall seasons across various subregions of HAD. We show that, despite decreases in total March-April-May rainfall, total water storage in the HAD has increased. This trend correlates strongly with seasonal totals and especially with extreme rainfall in the two dominant HAD rainy seasons between 2003 and 2016. We further show that high-intensity October-November-December rainfall associated with positive Indian Ocean Dipole events lead to the largest seasonal increases in water storage that persist over multiple years. These findings suggest that developing groundwater resources in HAD could offset or mitigate the impacts of increasingly common droughts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022GL099299
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research utilized computing facilities of the Bristol Research Initiative for the Dynamic Global Environment (BRIDGE). M.A. thanks Peter Peterson and Diego Pedreros for their support with CHIRPS analysis. The authors acknowledges funding from the following sources: the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) (“Drought Risk in East African Drylands-DREAD” and “Impacts of Climate Change on the Water Balance in East African Drylands”); The Royal Society (“DRIER,” CHL/R1/180485); the European Union's Horizon 2020 Program (“DOWN2EARTH,” 869550); the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/N014057/1); the USGS Drivers of Drought Program; the USAID Famine Early Warnings Systems Network; and the NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (80NSSC19K0686).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. The Authors.


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