EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Trends in Africa’s Terrestrial Water Storage 

Eva Boergens1 and Andreas Güntner2
Eva Boergens and Andreas Güntner
  • 1Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum, Sec. 1.3 Earth System Modelling, Potsdam, Germany (
  • 2Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum, Sec. 4.4 Hydrology, Potsdam, Germany (

The German-American satellite missions GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) and its successor GRACE-Follow-On (GRACE-FO) observed the unique data set of total water storage (TWS) variations over the continents since 2002. With this nearly 20 years of data, we can investigate trends in water storage beyond the strong declining trends of the ice sheets and glaciers. Unlike all other continents, Africa exhibits an overall positive trend in TWS. This contribution will take a detailed look into Africa's water storage changes and trends. Further, we attempt to explain these trends by comparison to other hydrological observations such as precipitation.

The long-term TWS increase in Africa is most pronounced in the East-African rift centred around Lake Victoria and the Niger River Basin. Other regions such as Madagaskar exhibit a (statistically significant) negative TWS trend. Furthermore, the trends are not monotonous over time. For example, the increasing trend in East Africa only started around the year 2006 and accelerated after 2012. On the other hand, South Africa wetted until 2012 and dried again since then.

This study divides the African continent into climatically similar regions and investigates the regional mean TWS signals. They are more complex than a linear trend and sinusoidal annual and semiannual seasonality; thus, we employ the STL method (Seasonal Trend decomposition based on Loess). In this way, turning points are identified in the so-called trend component to mark significant trend changes.

The observed TWS changes in Africa are caused mainly by changing precipitation patterns, as observed, for example, with the GPCP (Global Precipitation Climatology Project) data set. In some regions, such as South Africa, the correlation between precipitation and TWS change is evident, whereas other areas show a more complex relationship between these two variables.


How to cite: Boergens, E. and Güntner, A.: Trends in Africa’s Terrestrial Water Storage , EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-3415,, 2022.