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Keywords:

  • climatic variability;
  • drought;
  • rainfall;
  • River Niger;
  • Sahel;
  • streamflow;
  • West Africa

ABSTRACT

Hydroclimatic variability manifests as abrupt shifts, trends, runs, and recurrent cyclical phenomena, collectively referred to as components. In this article, we tested for the presence and magnitude of each component in the Niger Basin (West Africa), using the 0.5° by 0.5° gridded annual rainfall and temperature data produced by the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, UK, for the period 1901–2006. The streamflow data was also analysed for different sub-basins of the Niger Basin. Abrupt shifts were tested using a Bayesian and nonparametric approach. Trends were analysed using the Mann-Kendall trend test. Runs were extracted for dry, neutral, and wet conditions, simulated 1000 times based on the skew normal distribution, and used to investigate various run characteristics. Cyclical behaviour was investigated using continuous wavelet analysis. The results show that an abrupt change point occurred in 1969 in the rainfall and streamflow (but not temperature) time series in all subwatersheds of the Niger Basin. The magnitude of the shift in the mean rainfall varied between 16 and 24%. The temperature time series exhibit strong positive trends in all watersheds. Post change point, the rainfall and streamflow time series show positive, though statistically non-significant trends at α = 0.1. In contrast, disregarding the change point, all subwatersheds show significant negative trends at α = 0.05 and the maximum run lengths are about 4 years long for both dry and wet conditions. Finally, wavelet analysis showed that both rainfall and streamflow in the Niger Basin fluctuate on cycles that are predominantly 2–4 years long, with a few occurrences in the 6–8 years range. Wavelet activity diminished noticeably when a series appeared strongly dominated by trends. The results provide a more comprehensive view of climatic variability than would be obtained from only one or a few components.