A Drought Monitoring and Forecasting System for Sub-Sahara African Water Resources and Food Security.
Olang, L. O.
Wood, E. F.
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Drought is one of the leading impediments to development in Africa. Much of the continent is dependent on rain-fed agriculture, which makes it particularly susceptible to climate variability. Monitoring drought and providing timely seasonal forecasts are essential for integrated drought risk reduction. Current approaches in developing regions have generally been limited, however, in part because of unreliable monitoring networks. Operational seasonal climate forecasts are also deficient, often reliant on statistical regressions, which are unable to provide detailed information relevant for drought assessment. However, the wealth of data from satellites and recent advancements in large scale hydrological modeling and seasonal climate model predictions have enabled the development of state-of-the-art monitoring and prediction systems that can help address many of the problems inherent to developing regions. An experimental drought monitoring and forecast system for sub-Saharan Africa is described that is based on advanced land surface modeling driven by satellite and atmospheric model data. Key elements of the system are the provision of near real-time evaluations of the terrestrial water cycle and an assessment of drought conditions. The predictive element takes downscaled ensemble dynamical climate forecasts and provides, when merged with the hydrological modeling, ensemble hydrological forecasts. We evaluate the overall skill of the system for monitoring and predicting the development of drought, and illustrate the use of the system for the 2010/11 Horn of Africa drought. A key element is the transition and testing of the technology for operational usage by African collaborators and we discuss this for two implementations in West and East Africa.