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Will the Sahelian drought end in 1985?


The great variability of rainfall in the Sahelian areas of Africa is well documented for all time scales during the Quaternary and historical periods. Since the beginning of the twentieth century the variability can be quantified from many meteorological and hydrological surveys1–6. The River Sénégal runoff gives a simplified view of the yearly mean rainfall over an extensive Sahelian and Sudanian area. The pattern of the annual river discharge over the nineteenth century shows short periods of drastic minimum followed by a slow return to longer periods of wet conditions with a double maximum. The mean time between the last three droughts is 31.3 yr with extreme conditions every 10.3 ± 4 yr. Extrapolating the curve of the mean annual modules suggests that the present drought should end in 1985 with full wet conditions being re-established in about 1992. If the same pattern continues, it is feared that a severe drought will occur around 2005.

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Faure, H., Gac, JY. Will the Sahelian drought end in 1985?. Nature 291, 475–478 (1981).

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