Opportunities for hydrologic research in the Congo Basin

Abstract : We review the published results on the Congo Basin hydrology and summarize the historic and ongoing research. Annual rainfall is ~1900 mm/yr along an east‐west trend across the basin, decreasing northward and southward to ~1100 mm/yr. Historic studies using lysimeters, pans, and models suggest that the annual potential evapotranspiration varies little across the basin at 1100 to 1200 mm/yr. Over the past century, river discharge data have been collected at hundreds of stream gauges with historic and recent data at 96 locations now publicly available. Congo River discharge at Kinshasa‐Brazzaville experienced an increase of 21% during the 1960–1970 decade in comparison to most other decades. Satellite altimetry measurements of high and low flows show that water levels in the “Cuvette Centrale” wetland are 0.5 m to 3.0 m higher in elevation than the immediately adjacent Congo River levels. Wetland water depths are shallow at about a meter and there does not appear to be many sizable channels across the “Cuvette”; thus, wetland flows are diffusive. Cuvette waters alone are estimated to emit about 0.5 Pg CH4 and CO2 equivalents/yr, an amount that is significant compared to global carbon evasions. Using these results, we suggest seven hypotheses that focus on the source of the Cuvette waters and how these leave the wetland, on the river discharge generated by historic rainfall, on the connection between climate change and the rainfall‐runoff generated by the migrating “tropical rainbelt,” on deforestation and hydroelectric power generation, and on the amount of carbon emitted from Congo waters.
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Contributeur : Pascale Roussel <>
Soumis le : lundi 13 mai 2019 - 13:17:43
Dernière modification le : vendredi 11 octobre 2019 - 20:22:38


  • HAL Id : hal-02127316, version 1


Douglas Alsdorf, Ed Beighley, Alain Laraque, Hyongki Lee, Raphael Tshimanga, et al.. Opportunities for hydrologic research in the Congo Basin. AGU Fall Meeting 2016, Dec 2016, San Francisco, United States. ⟨hal-02127316⟩



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