On the potentials of multiple climate variables in assessing the spatio-temporal characteristics of hydrological droughts over the Volta Basin
Multiple drought episodes over the Volta basin in recent reports may lead to food insecurity and loss of revenue. However, drought studies over the Volta basin are rather generalised and largely undocumented due to sparse ground observations and unsuitable framework to determine their space-time occurrence. In this study, we examined the utility of standardised indicators (standardised precipitation index (SPI), standardised runoff index (SRI), standardised soil moisture index (SSI), and multivariate standardised drought index (MSDI)) and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) derived terrestrial water storage to assess hydrological drought characteristics over the basin. In order to determine the space-time patterns of hydrological drought in the basin, Independent Component Analysis (ICA), a higher order statistical technique was employed. The results show that SPI and SRI exhibit inconsistent behaviour in observed wet years presupposing a non-linear relationship that reflects the slow response of river discharge to precipitation especially after a previous extreme dry period. While the SPI and SSI show a linear relationship with a correlation of 0.63, the correlation between the MSDIs derived from combining precipitation/river discharge and precipitation/soil moisture indicates a significant value of 0.70 and shows an improved skill in hydrological drought monitoring over the Volta basin during the study period. The ICA-derived spatio-temporal hydrological drought patterns show Burkina Faso and the Lake Volta areas as predominantly drought zones. Further, the statistically significant negative correlations of pacific decadal oscillations (0.39 and 0.25) with temporal evolutions of drought in Burkina Faso and Ghana suggest the possible influence of low frequency large scale oscillations in the observed wet and dry regimes over the basin. Finally, our approach in drought assessment over the Volta basin contributes to a broad framework for hydrological drought monitoring that will complement existing methods while looking forward to a longer record of GRACE observations.
Read full paper https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.004