Identifying changing precipitation extremes in Sub-Saharan Africa with gauge and satellite products

Environmental Research Letters
By: , and 



Sparse gauge networks in Sub-Saharan Africa limit our ability to identify changing precipitation extremes with in situ observations. Given the potential for satellite and satellite-gauge precipitation products to help, we investigate how daily gridded gauge and satellite products compare for seven core climate change precipitation indices. According to a new gauge-only product, the Rainfall estimates on a Gridded Network (REGEN), there were notable changes in Sub-Saharan Africa precipitation characteristics between 1950 and 2013 in well-gauged areas. We examine these trends and how these vary for wet, intermediate, and dry areas. For a 31 year period of overlap we compare REGEN data, other gridded products, and three satellite products. Then for 1998-2013 we compare a set of twelve satellite products. Finally, we compare spatial patterns of 1983-2013 trends across all of Sub-Saharan Africa. Robust 1950-2013 trends indicate that in well-gauged areas extreme events became wetter, particularly in wet areas. Annual totals decreased due to fewer rain days. Since the 1980s were increases in average precipitation intensity and annual maximum 1-day totals. These trends only represent 15% of Sub-Saharan Africa, however, and only one tenth of the main wet areas. Unfortunately, gauge and satellite products do not provide consensus for wet area trends. A promising result for identifying regional changes is that numerous satellite products do well at interannual variations in precipitation totals and number of rain days- as well as some gauge-only products. Products perform less well for dry spell length and average intensity and worst for annual maximum 1-day totals. TRMM 3B42 and CHIRPS ranked highest for multiple indices. Several products have seemingly unrealistic trends outside of the well-gauged areas that may be due to influence of non-stationary systematic biases.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Identifying changing precipitation extremes in Sub-Saharan Africa with gauge and satellite products
Series title Environmental Research Letters
DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/ab2cae
Volume 14
Issue 8
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher IOP Science
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description 13 p.