Advertisement

Recent intensification of the seasonal rainfall cycle in equatorial Africa revealed by farmer perceptions, satellite-based estimates, and ground-based station measurements

  • Jonathan SalernoEmail author
  • Jeremy E. Diem
  • Bronwen L. Konecky
  • Joel Hartter
Article

Abstract

Smallholder farmers and livestock keepers in sub-Saharan Africa are on the frontlines of climate variability and change. Yet, in many regions, a paucity of weather and climate data has prevented rigorous assessment of recent climate trends and their causes, thereby limiting the effectiveness of forecasts and other services for climate adaptation. In rainfed systems, farmer perceptions of changing rainfall and weather patterns are important precursors for annual cropping decisions. Here, we propose that combining such farmer perceptions of trends in seasonal rainfall with satellite-based rainfall estimates and climate station data can reduce uncertainties regarding regional climatic trends. In western Uganda, a rural and climatically complex transition zone between eastern and central equatorial Africa, data from 980 smallholder households suggest distinct changes in seasonal bimodal rainfall over recent decades, specifically wetter rainy seasons and drier dry seasons. Data from three satellite-based rainfall products beginning in 1983 largely corroborate respondent perceptions over the last 10–20 years, particularly in the southernmost sites near Queen Elizabeth National Park. In addition, combining all three information sources suggests an increasing trend in annual rainfall, most prominently in the north near Murchison Falls National Park over the past two decades; this runs counter to recent research asserting the presence of a drying trend in the region. Our study is unique in evaluating and cross-validating these multiple data sources to identify climatic change affecting people in a poorly understood region, while providing insights into regional-scale climate controls.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the survey respondents and the local officials who facilitated this research. Nick Dowhaniuk and Mike Palace provided much appreciated help with data processing. The paper benefitted greatly from the comments of three anonymous reviewers.

Funding information

Funding was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation (CNH- 1114977) and National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration.

Supplementary material

10584_2019_2370_MOESM1_ESM.docx (184 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 184 kb)

References

  1. Adger WN, Lorenzoni I, O’Brien KL (2009) Adapting to climate change: thresholds, values, governance. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asefi-Najafabady S, Saatchi S (2013) Response of African humid tropical forests to recent rainfall anomalies. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 368:20120306.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0306 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aukema JE, Pricope NG, Husak GJ, Lopez-Carr D (2017) Biodiversity areas under threat: overlap of climate change and population pressures on the world’s biodiversity priorities. PLoS One 12:e0170615.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0170615 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cairns JE, Hellin J, Sonder K et al (2013) Adapting maize production to climate change in sub-Saharan Africa. Food Secur 5:345–360.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-013-0256-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cobo JG, Dercon G, Cadisch G (2010) Nutrient balances in African land use systems across different spatial scales: a review of approaches, challenges and progress. Agric Ecosyst Environ 136:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cooper PJM, Dimes J, Rao KPC et al (2008) Coping better with current climatic variability in the rain-fed farming systems of sub-Saharan Africa: an essential first step in adapting to future climate change? Agric Ecosyst Environ 126:24–35.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2008.01.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dai A, Fung IY, Del Genio AD (1997) Surface observed global land precipitation variations during 1900–88. J Clim 10:2943–2962.  https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(1997)010<2943:SOGLPV>2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diem JE, Ryan SJ, Hartter J, Palace MW (2014) Satellite-based rainfall data reveal a recent drying trend in central equatorial Africa. Clim Chang 126:263–272.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1217-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diem JE, Hartter J, Salerno J et al (2017) Comparison of measured multi-decadal rainfall variability with farmers’ perceptions of and responses to seasonal changes in western Uganda. Reg Environ Chang 17:1127–1140.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-0943-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dinku T, Funk C, Peterson P, et al (2018) Validation of the CHIRPS satellite rainfall estimates over eastern of Africa. Q J R Meteorol Soc 144:292–312Google Scholar
  11. Dunning CM, Black EC, Allan RP (2016) The onset and cessation of seasonal rainfall over Africa. J Geophys Res Atmospheres 121:405–411Google Scholar
  12. Eakin H (2000) Smallholder maize production and climatic risk: a case study from Mexico. Clim Chang 45:19–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ellen R, Harris H (2000) Introduction. In: Ellen R, Parkes P, Bicker A (eds) Indigenous environmental knowledge and its transformations. Harwood, Amsterdam, pp 1–34Google Scholar
  14. FAO (2015) The State of Food Insecurity in the World: meeting the 2015 international hunger targets. Food and Agriculture Association, International Fund for Agricultura Development, United Nations World Food Program, RomeGoogle Scholar
  15. Farnsworth A, White E, Williams CJR et al (2011) Understanding the large scale driving mechanisms of rainfall variability over Central Africa. In: Williams CJR, Kniveton DR (eds) African climate and climate change: physical, social and political perspectives. Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, pp 101–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fensholt R, Rasmussen K (2011) Analysis of trends in the Sahelian ‘rain-use efficiency’ using GIMMS NDVI, RFE and GPCP rainfall data. Remote Sens Environ 115:438–451.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2010.09.014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Funk C, Dettinger MD, Michaelsen JC et al (2008) Warming of the Indian Ocean threatens eastern and southern African food security but could be mitigated by agricultural development. Proc Natl Acad Sci 105:11081–11086.  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0708196105 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Funk C, Peterson P, Landsfeld M et al (2015) The climate hazards infrared precipitation with stations—a new environmental record for monitoring extremes. Sci Data 2:150066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Haile M (2005) Weather patterns, food security and humanitarian response in sub-Saharan Africa. Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 360:2169.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2005.1746 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hansen JW, Mason SJ, Sun L, Tall A (2011) Review of seasonal climate forecasting for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Exp Agric 47:205–240.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0014479710000876 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hartmann DL, Tank AMK, Rusticucci M, et al (2013) Observations: atmosphere and surface. In: Climate Change 2013 the Physical Science Basis: Working Group I Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  22. Helsel D, Hirsch R (2002) Statistical methods in water resources. Techniques of Water Resources Investigations, Book 4, chapter A3. U.S. Geological Survey.Google Scholar
  23. Howe PD, Thaker J, Leiserowitz A (2014) Public perceptions of rainfall change in India. Clim Chang 127:211–225.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1245-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hua W, Zhou L, Chen H et al (2016) Possible causes of the Central Equatorial African long-term drought. Environ Res Lett 11:124002CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. IUCN and UNEP (2010) The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). UNEP-WCMC. Cambridge, UK. www.protectedplanet.net
  26. Jackson B, Nicholson SE, Klotter D (2009) Mesoscale convective systems over western equatorial Africa and their relationship to large-scale circulation. Mon Weather Rev 137:1272–1294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jury MR, Funk C (2013) Climatic trends over Ethiopia: regional signals and drivers. Int J Climatol 33:1924–1935.  https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.3560 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kosmowski F, Leblois A, Sultan B (2016) Perceptions of recent rainfall changes in Niger: a comparison between climate-sensitive and non-climate sensitive households. Clim Chang 135:227–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Laurance WF, Sayer J, Cassman KG (2014) Agricultural expansion and its impacts on tropical nature. Trends Ecol Evol 29:107–116.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2013.12.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lemos MC, Dilling L (2007) Equity in forecasting climate: can science save the world’s poor? Sci Public Policy 34:109–116.  https://doi.org/10.3152/030234207X190964 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewis SL, Edwards DP, Galbraith D (2015) Increasing human dominance of tropical forests. Science 349:827.  https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa9932 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lyon B, DeWitt DG (2012) A recent and abrupt decline in the East African long rains. Geophys Res Lett 39.  https://doi.org/10.1029/2011GL050337
  33. Maddison D (2007) The perception of and adaptation to climate change in Africa. Policy Research Working Paper 4308. World Bank PublicationsGoogle Scholar
  34. Maidment RI, Allan RP, Black E (2015) Recent observed and simulated changes in precipitation over Africa. Geophys Res Lett 42:8155–8164.  https://doi.org/10.1002/2015GL065765 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Maidment RI, Grimes D, Black E et al (2017) A new, long-term daily satellite-based rainfall dataset for operational monitoring in Africa. Sci Data 4:170063.  https://doi.org/10.1038/sdata.2017.63
  36. Malhi Y, Wright J (2004) Spatial patterns and recent trends in the climate of tropical rainforest regions. Philos Trans R Soc Lond Ser B Biol Sci 359:311.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2003.1433 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Marx SM, Weber EU, Orlove BS et al (2007) Communication and mental processes: experiential and analytic processing of uncertain climate information. Uncertain Clim Change Adapt Mitig 17:47–58.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.10.004 Google Scholar
  38. Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG et al (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403:853–858. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v403/n6772/suppinfo/403853a0_S1.html CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nesbitt SW, Cifelli R, Rutledge SA (2006) Storm morphology and rainfall characteristics of TRMM precipitation features. Mon Weather Rev 134:2702–2721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nicholson SE (1996) A review of climate dynamics and climate variability in Eastern Africa. In: Johnson TC & Odado EO. "The limnology, climatology and paleoclimatology of the East African lakes." Gordon & Breach PublishingGoogle Scholar
  41. Nicholson SE, Kim J (1997) The relationship of the El Niño–southern oscillation to African rainfall. Int J Climatol 17:117–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Novella NS, Thiaw WM (2012) African Rainfall Climatology version 2 for famine early warning systems. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 52:588–606.  https://doi.org/10.1175/JAMC-D-11-0238.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Orlove B, Roncoli C, Kabugo M, Majugu A (2010) Indigenous climate knowledge in southern Uganda: the multiple components of a dynamic regional system. Clim Chang 100:243–265.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-009-9586-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Osbahr H, Dorward P, Stern R, Cooper S (2011) Supporting agricultural innovation in Uganda to respond to climate risk: linking climate change and variability with farmer perceptions. Exp Agric 47:293–316.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0014479710000785 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Roncoli C (2006) Ethnographic and participatory approaches to research on farmers’ responses to climate predictions. Clim Res 33:81–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Roncoli C, Ingram K, Kirshen P (2002) Reading the rains: local knowledge and rainfall forecasting in Burkina Faso. Soc Nat Resour 15:409–427.  https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920252866774 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rosegrant M, Cai X, Cline S (2002) World water and food to 2025: dealing with scarcity. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  48. Salerno J, Diem JE, Dowhaniuk N et al (2017a) Park isolation in anthropogenic landscapes: land change and livelihoods at park boundaries in the African Albertine Rift. Reg Environ Chang.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-017-1250-1
  49. Salerno J, Ross N, Ghai R et al (2017b) Human–wildlife interactions predict febrile illness in park landscapes of Western Uganda. EcoHealth.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-017-1286-1
  50. Sanchez PA (2002) Soil fertility and hunger in Africa. Science 295:2019–2020.  https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1065256 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sánchez-Cortés MS, Chavero EL (2011) Indigenous perception of changes in climate variability and its relationship with agriculture in a Zoque community of Chiapas, Mexico. Clim Chang 107:363–389.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-010-9972-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schlenker W, Lobell DB (2010) Robust negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture. Environ Res Lett 5:014010CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Silvestri S, Bryan E, Ringler C et al (2012) Climate change perception and adaptation of agro-pastoral communities in Kenya. Reg Environ Chang 12:791–802.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-012-0293-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Slegers MFW (2008) “If only it would rain”: farmers’ perceptions of rainfall and drought in semi-arid central Tanzania. J Arid Environ 72:2106–2123.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2008.06.011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ssentongo P, Muwanguzi AJB, Eden U, Sauer T, Bwanga G, Kateregga G, Aribo L, Ojara M, Mugerwa WK, Schiff SJ (2018) Changes in Ugandan climate rainfall at the village and forest level. Sci Rep 8:3551.  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-21427-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Thomas DSG, Twyman C, Osbahr H, Hewitson B (2007) Adaptation to climate change and variability: farmer responses to intra-seasonal precipitation trends in South Africa. Clim Chang 83:301–322.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-006-9205-4 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tittonell P, Muriuki A, Shepherd KD et al (2010) The diversity of rural livelihoods and their influence on soil fertility in agricultural systems of East Africa – a typology of smallholder farms. Agric Syst 103:83–97.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2009.10.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. UBOS (2016) Uganda Bureau of Statistics National Population and Housing Census 2014. KampalaGoogle Scholar
  59. Vrieling A, de Beurs KM, Brown ME (2011) Variability of African farming systems from phenological analysis of NDVI time series. Clim Chang 109:455–477.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-011-0049-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Washington R, James R, Pearce H, et al (2013) Congo Basin rainfall climatology: can we believe the climate models? Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 368:1625.  https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0296
  61. West CT, Roncoli C, Ouattara F (2008) Local perceptions and regional climate trends on the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso. Land Degradation Dev 19:289–304.  https://doi.org/10.1002/ldr.842 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. West CT, Moody A, Nébié EK, Sanon O (2017) Ground-truthing Sahelian greening: ethnographic and spatial evidence from Burkina Faso. Hum Ecol 45:89–101.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-016-9888-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Williams AP, Funk C (2011) A westward extension of the warm pool leads to a westward extension of the Walker circulation, drying eastern Africa. Clim Dyn 37:2417–2435.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-010-0984-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yang W, Seager R, Cane MA, Lyon B (2014) The East African long rains in observations and models. J Clim 27:7185–7202.  https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00447.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. You L, Ringler C, Wood-Sichra et al. (2011) What is the irrigation potential for Africa? A combined biophysical and socioeconomic approach. Food Policy 36:770–782.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2011.09.001

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Dimensions of Natural ResourcesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeosciencesDepartment of Earth and Planetary SciencesWashington University CampusSt. LouisUSA
  4. 4.Environmental Studies ProgramUniversity of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations