Rainfall Variability over Mountainous and Adjacent Lake Areas: The Case of Lake Tana Basin at the Source of the Blue Nile River

Alemseged T. Haile Water Technology Institute, Arba Minch University, Arba Minch, Ethiopia, and Water Resources Department, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, Enschede, Netherlands

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Tom Rientjes Water Resources Department, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, Enschede, Netherlands

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Ambro Gieske Water Resources Department, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, Enschede, Netherlands

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Mekonnen Gebremichael Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut

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Abstract

The water resource of the Blue Nile River is of key regional importance to the northeastern African countries. However, little is known about the characteristics of the rainfall in the basin. In this paper, the authors presented the space–time variability of the rainfall in the vicinity of Lake Tana, which is the source of the Blue Nile River. The analysis was based on hourly rainfall data from a network of newly installed rain gauges, and cloud temperature indices from the Meteosat Second Generation (MSG–2) Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) satellite sensor. The spatial and temporal patterns of rainfall were examined using not only statistical techniques such as exceedance probabilities, spatial correlation structure, harmonic analysis, and fractal analysis but also marginal statistics such as mean and standard deviation. In addition, a convective index was calculated from remote sensing images to infer the spatial and temporal patterns of rainfall. Heavy rainfall is frequent at stations that are relatively close to the lake. The correlation distances for the hourly and the daily rainfall are found at about 8 and 18 km, respectively. The rainfall shows a strong spatially varying diurnal cycle. The nocturnal rainfall was found to be higher over the southern shore of Lake Tana than over the mountainous area farther to the south. The maximum convection occurs between 1600 and 1700 local standard time (LST) over the Gilgel Abbay, Ribb, and Gumara catchments, and between 2200 and 2300 LST over Lake Tana and the Megech catchments. In addition, the hourly rainfall of the station with the highest elevation is relatively closely clustered as compared to those stations at lower elevation. The study provides relevant information for understanding rainfall variation with elevation and distance from a lake. This understanding benefits climate and hydrological studies, water resources management, and energy development in the region.

Corresponding author address: Alemseged Tamiru Haile, Water Resources Department, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, P.O. Box 6, 7500 AA Enschede, Netherlands. Email: haile07634@itc.nl

Abstract

The water resource of the Blue Nile River is of key regional importance to the northeastern African countries. However, little is known about the characteristics of the rainfall in the basin. In this paper, the authors presented the space–time variability of the rainfall in the vicinity of Lake Tana, which is the source of the Blue Nile River. The analysis was based on hourly rainfall data from a network of newly installed rain gauges, and cloud temperature indices from the Meteosat Second Generation (MSG–2) Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) satellite sensor. The spatial and temporal patterns of rainfall were examined using not only statistical techniques such as exceedance probabilities, spatial correlation structure, harmonic analysis, and fractal analysis but also marginal statistics such as mean and standard deviation. In addition, a convective index was calculated from remote sensing images to infer the spatial and temporal patterns of rainfall. Heavy rainfall is frequent at stations that are relatively close to the lake. The correlation distances for the hourly and the daily rainfall are found at about 8 and 18 km, respectively. The rainfall shows a strong spatially varying diurnal cycle. The nocturnal rainfall was found to be higher over the southern shore of Lake Tana than over the mountainous area farther to the south. The maximum convection occurs between 1600 and 1700 local standard time (LST) over the Gilgel Abbay, Ribb, and Gumara catchments, and between 2200 and 2300 LST over Lake Tana and the Megech catchments. In addition, the hourly rainfall of the station with the highest elevation is relatively closely clustered as compared to those stations at lower elevation. The study provides relevant information for understanding rainfall variation with elevation and distance from a lake. This understanding benefits climate and hydrological studies, water resources management, and energy development in the region.

Corresponding author address: Alemseged Tamiru Haile, Water Resources Department, International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation, P.O. Box 6, 7500 AA Enschede, Netherlands. Email: haile07634@itc.nl

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