Hydrological Response and Complex Impact Pathways of the 2015/2016 El Niño in Eastern and Southern Africa
Gannon, K. E.
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AbstractThe 2015/2016 El Niño has been classified as one of the three most severe on record. El Niñoteleconnections are commonly associated with droughts in southern Africa and high precipitation ineastern Africa. Despite their relatively frequent occurrence, evidence for their hydrological effects andimpacts beyond agriculture is limited. We examine the hydrological response and impact pathways of the2015/2016 El Niño in eastern and southern Africa, focusing on Botswana, Kenya, and Zambia. We use insitu and remotely sensed time series of precipitation, river flow, and lake levels complemented by qual-itative insights from interviews with key organizations in each country about awareness, impacts, andresponses. Our results show that drought conditions prevailed in large parts of southern Africa, reduc-ing runoff and contributing to unusually low lake levels in Botswana and Zambia. Key informants char-acterized this El Niño through record high temperatures and water supply disruption in Botswana andthrough hydroelectric load shedding in Zambia. Warnings of flood risk in Kenya were pronounced, butthe El Niño teleconnection did not materialize as expected in 2015/2016. Extreme precipitation was lim-ited and caused localized impacts. The hydrological impacts in southern Africa were severe and complex,strongly exacerbated by dry antecedent conditions, recent changes in exposure and sensitivity and man-agement decisions. Improved understanding of hydrological responses and the complexity of differingimpact pathways can support design of more adaptive, region-specific management strategies.
CitationOlago D, Siderius C, Gannon KE, Ndiyoi M, Opere A, Batisani N, Pardoe J, Conway D. "Hydrological response and complex impact pathways of the 2015/2016 El Niño in Eastern and Southern Africa." Earth's Future. 2018;6(1):2-22.
University of Nairobi