Time of emergence of impacts of climate change on groundwater levels in sub-Saharan Africa

Ascott, M.J.; Macdonald, D.M.J.; Sandwidi, W.J.P.; Black, E.; Verhoef, A.; Zongo, G.; Tirogo, J.; Cook, P.. 2022 Time of emergence of impacts of climate change on groundwater levels in sub-Saharan Africa. Journal of Hydrology, 612, 128107.

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The impacts of climate change on groundwater are poorly constrained, particularly in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa where global circulation models (GCMs) project different directions of precipitation change. Moreover, the timing of when climate change impacts on groundwater can be differentiated from natural variability has not been quantified. Here, for the first time, we estimate the time of emergence (ToE) of climate change impacts on groundwater levels, using time series from eight sites across Burkina Faso, West Africa. We apply output data from historical and RCP8.5 runs of CMIP5 GCMs to lumped groundwater models for each site, and estimate ToE by calculating signal to noise ratios for each site and CMIP5 model. We show that in addition to inconsistent direction of climate change impacts across different GCMs, there is inconsistency in the ToE of climate change signals in future groundwater levels, particularly in drying GCMs. Across the eight sites, between 5 (4) and 13 (13) CMIP5 GCMs of a possible 23 show a ToE associated with decreases (increases) in groundwater levels. ToE from CMIP5 GCMs producing decreases in groundwater levels (i.e. drying) is highly variable between sites and GCMs (across all sites, median ToE = 2049, interquartile range = 48 years). For CMIP5 GCMs producing increases in groundwater levels (i.e. wetting), ToE appears to occur earlier and with less variability (across all sites median ToE = 2011, interquartile range = 11 years). These results underline the need for development of no-regrets adaptation measures in parallel with reductions in GCM uncertainty.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 00221694
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater
Date made live: 30 Jun 2022 12:30 +0 (UTC)

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