Assessing Freshwater Changes over Southern and CentralAfrica (2002–2017)

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Kalu, Ikechukwu
Ndehedehe, Christopher
Okwuashi, Onuwa
Eyoh, Aniekan
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In large freshwater river basins across the globe, the composite influences of large-scale climatic processes and human activities (e.g., deforestation) on hydrological processes have been studied. However, the knowledge of these processes in this era of the Anthropocene in the understudied hydrologically pristine South Central African (SCA) region is limited. This study employs satellite observations of evapotranspiration (ET), precipitation and freshwater between 2002 and 2017 to explore the hydrological patterns of this region, which play a crucial role in global climatology. Multivariate methods, including the rotated principal component analysis (rPCA) were used to assess the relationship of terrestrial water storage (TWS) in response to climatic units (precipitation and ET). The use of the rPCA technique in assessing changes in TWS is warranted to provide more information on hydrological changes that are usually obscured by other dominant naturally-driven fluxes. Results show a low trend in vegetation transpiration due to deforestation around the Congo basin. Overall, the Congo (r2 = 76%) and Orange (r2 = 72%) River basins maintained an above-average consistency between precipitation and TWS throughout the study region and period. Consistent loss in freshwater is observed in the Zambezi (−9.9 ± 2.6 mm/year) and Okavango (−9.1 ± 2.5 mm/year) basins from 2002 to 2008. The Limpopo River basin is observed to have a 6% below average reduction in rainfall rates which contributed to its consistent loss in freshwater (−4.6 ± 3.2 mm/year) from 2006 to 2012.Using multi-linear regression and correlation analysis we show that ET contributes to the variability and distribution of TWS in the region. The relationship of ET with TWS (r = 0.5) and rainfall (r = 0.8) over SCA provides insight into the role of ET in regulating fluxes and the mechanisms that drive precipitation in the region. The moderate ET–TWS relationship also shows the effect of climate and anthropogenic influence in their interactions.

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© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Classical physics
Climate change processes
Physical geography and environmental geoscience
Natural hazards
Geomorphology and earth surface processes
Surface water hydrology
Geomatic engineering
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Kalu, I; Ndehedehe, C; Okwuashi, O; Eyoh, A, Assessing Freshwater Changes over Southern and Central Africa (2002–2017), Remote Sensing, 2021, 13, pp. 2543