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Relative contribution of climate variability and human activities on the water loss of the Chari/Logone River discharge into Lake Chad: A conceptual and statistical approach

Zhu, Wenbin, Jia, Shaofeng, Lall, Upmanu, Cao, Qing, Mahmood, Rashid
Journal of hydrology 2019 v.569 pp. 519-531
anthropogenic activities, basins, climate, hydrologic models, irrigation, lakes, rain, regression analysis, river flow, rivers, runoff, surface area, Lake Chad
Lake Chad was once the sixth largest lake in the world, with a surface area of about 25,000 km2 in the early 1960s. However, it has shrunk to almost only one-twentieth of its maximum area by now. As the biggest river of the Lake Chad basin, the Chari/Logone River contributes approximately 90% of Lake Chad’s water input. Consequently, several previous studies have focused on the Chari/Logone River system to investigate the causes of Lake Chad’s shrinkage. However, due to the lack of authoritative irrigation and natural runoff observations, it is usually difficult to explain the relative contribution of human activities and climate variability. In this paper, unlike the hydrological modeling approaches used in previous studies, a conceptual and statistical approach was presented to investigate discharge variations and the causes leading to such variations. Specifically, the runoff change caused by climate variability (ΔQclimate) was estimated using Budyko analysis, while that caused by human activities (ΔQhuman) was estimated using regression analysis. The accuracy of estimation was evaluated through cross validation and comparison with previous studies. The comparison suggests that due to the lack of natural runoff and irrigation withdrawal observations, the runoff simulation produced by previous hydrological models suffers from large errors. The water loss of the Chari/Logone River discharge is dominated by human activities rather than climate variability. On annual average scale, the total water loss caused by climate variability and anthropogenic activities is 16.76 km3. The relative contribution of ΔQclimate and ΔQhuman is 26.83% and 73.17%, respectively. The role of human activities is particularly obvious in recent ten years from 2003 to 2013. Due to the increase of rainfall and irrigation withdrawals, the relative contribution of human activities accounts for more than 80% of the total water loss.