The flows of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna (GBM) are highly seasonal, and heavily influenced by monsoon rainfall. As a result, these rivers swell to their banks and often overflow during the monsoon months. This is most pronounced in the downstream regions, particularly in Bangladesh, which is the lowest riparian country. The objective of this paper is to study this hydro-meteorological variability in the greater GBM regions, including the headwater regions in India and their role in streamflows in Bangladesh, and explore the large-scale oceanic factors affecting this hydro-meteorological variability. Global precipitation data, Bangladesh rainfall and streamflow records have been analysed and related to large-scale climate patterns, including upstream rainfall, regional atmospheric circulation and patterns of sea-surface temperature.
The findings have quantified how the streamflows of these rivers in Bangladesh are highly correlated with the rainfall in the upper catchments with typically a lag of about 1 month. Therefore, streamflows in Bangladesh could be reasonably estimated for 1 to 3 months in advance (especially for the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers) by employing simple correlation, if rainfall data from countries further up are available on a real-time and continuous basis. In the absence of rainfall data, streamflow forecasts are still possible from unusually warm or cold sea-surface temperatures in the tropics. The study concludes that hydro-meteorological information flow between Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries is essential for developing a knowledge base for evaluating the potential implications of seasonal streamflow forecast in the GBM basins in Bangladesh. Copyright © 2004 Royal Meteorological Society