Precipitation trends in East Africa 1980-2021


Precipitation trends in East Africa 1980-2021



Elisabeth Arnold


Presentation: 1:15-2:30 p.m., Kennedy Union Ballroom



The East African region has experienced changes in precipitation over the past 4 decades. This region is especially vulnerable to climate change because of its dependence on predictable precipitation for subsistence agriculture. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the changing patterns of rainfall in East Africa using high resolution MSWEP data from 1980-2021. Our results show an overall decrease in annual precipitation (-2.5% per decade) and precipitation frequency (-4% per decade). As a result, precipitation intensity remained largely unchanged. Annual maximum daily rainfall decreased by -1.6% per decade, and maximum consecutive five-day precipitation decreased by -2.7% per decade. Annual maximum number of consecutive wet days also decreased by -5.5% per decade. With the decrease in overall annual rainfall, the annual maximum number of consecutive dry days increased by 2.7% per decade. The high spatial resolution of the data reveals significant spatial variability of these trends, with a clear east/west divide. The western part of the study area experienced more significant decreases in annual rainfall, rainfall frequency, maximum daily and 5-day rainfall and consecutive wet periods. On the other hand, the eastern part of the region experienced slight increase in rainfall and rainfall frequency, and maximum daily and 5-day rainfall remained largely unchanged. Despite such differences, the maximum number of consecutive dry days increased throughout the region, indicating higher propensity for droughts.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Shuang-Ye Wu

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences

Institutional Learning Goals

Critical Evaluation of Our Times; Practical Wisdom; Community

Precipitation trends in East Africa 1980-2021