Long-term drought trends in Ethiopia with implications for dryland agriculture

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Abstract

Intraseason and seasonal drought trends in Ethiopia were studied using a suite of drought indicators-standardized precipitation index (SPI), standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI), Palmer drought severity index (PDSI) and Z-index for Meher (long-rainy), Bega (dry), and Belg (short-rainy) seasons-to identify drought-causing mechanisms. Trend analysis indicated shifts in late-season Meher precipitation into Bega in the southwest and southcentral portions of Ethiopia. Droughts during Bega (October-January) are largely temperature controlled. Short-term temperature-controlled hydrologic processes exacerbate rainfall deficits during Belg (February- May) and highlight the importance of temperature- and hydrology-induced soil dryness on production of short-season crops such as tef. Droughts during Meher (June-September) are largely driven by precipitation declines arising from the narrowing of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). Increased dryness during Meher has severe consequences on the production of corn and sorghum. PDSI is an aggressive indicator of seasonal droughts suggesting the low natural resilience to combat the effects of slow-acting, moisture-depleting hydrologic processes. The lack of irrigation systems in the nation limits the ability to combat droughts and improve agricultural resilience. There is an urgent need to monitor soil moisture (a key agro-hydrologic variable) to better quantify the impacts of meteorological droughts on agricultural systems in Ethiopia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2571
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Volume11
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

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Keywords

  • Autocorrelation
  • Climate change
  • Droughts
  • Ethiopia
  • Food security
  • PDSI
  • Palmer z-index
  • SPEI
  • SPI
  • Trend analysis

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