Projected increased risk of water deficit over major West African river basins under future climates
Estimating climate change impacts on water resources in West Africa has been challenged by hydrological data scarcity and inconsistencies in the available climate projections. In this study, multi-model ensembles of the most recent global and regional climate models output are used to simulate the hydrologic impacts of climate change in five major river basins (i.e. Senegal, Gambia, Volta, Niger and Chad) that comprise most of West Africa. Under Representative Concentration Pathways 4.5 and 8.5, the results consistently project substantial decreases (10 to 40%) in potential water availability across the five major river basins. The largest changes are projected to occur in the Senegal basin, Gambia basin and the Sahelian part of the other river basins. The negative trends are steepest after 2050 and in the higher greenhouse gas forcing scenario. Therefore, in a business-as-usual world, reduced water availability combined with the region’s rapidly growing population will have West Africa facing an unprecedented water deficit during the second half of the twenty-first century. However, greenhouse gas mitigation can help reduce this deficit. In the Volta basin, although potential water availability declines considerably, precipitation exceeds potential evapotranspiration during the monsoon season in both forcing scenarios, suggesting opportunities for adaptation.
This work is entirely supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research through the West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Landuse (WASCAL). We are also grateful to the CMIP5 and CORDEX modeling centers for the generation of the projections used in this study. All the data used in this study are available at the ESGF website.
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