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Sustained water storage in Horn of Africa drylands dominated by seasonal rainfall extremes

Adloff, Markus, Singer, Michael Bliss ORCID:, MacLeod, David A., Michaelides, Katerina, Mehrnegar, Nooshin, Hansford, Eleanor, Funk, Chris and Mitchell, Daniel 2022. Sustained water storage in Horn of Africa drylands dominated by seasonal rainfall extremes. Geophysical Research Letters 49 (21) , e2022GL099299. 10.1029/2022GL099299

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Rural communities in the Horn of Africa Drylands (HAD) are increasingly vulnerable to multi-season droughts due to the strong dependence of livelihoods on seasonal rainfall. We analysed multiple observational rainfall datasets 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.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0094-8276
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 2 November 2022
Date of Acceptance: 4 October 2022
Last Modified: 02 May 2023 15:05

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