Seasonal forecasts in the Sahel region: the use of rainfall-based predictive variables

In the Sahel region, seasonal predictions are crucial to alleviate the impacts of climate variability on populations' livelihoods. Agricultural planning (e.g., decisions about sowing date, fertilizer application date, and choice of crop or cultivar) is based on empirical predictive indices whose accuracy to date has not been scientifically proven. This paper attempts to statistically test whether the pattern of rainfall distribution over the May–July period contributes to predicting the real onset date and the nature (wet or dry) of the rainy season, as farmers believe. To that end, we considered historical records of daily rainfall from 51 stations spanning the period 1920–2008 and the different agro-climatic zones in Burkina Faso. We performed (1) principal component analysis to identify climatic zones, based on the patterns of intra-seasonal rainfall, (2) and linear discriminant analysis to find the best rainfall-based variables to distinguish between real and false onset dates of the rainy season, and between wet and dry seasons in each climatic zone. A total of nine climatic zones were identified in each of which, based on rainfall records from May to July, we derived linear discriminant functions to correctly predict the nature of a potential onset date of the rainy season (real or false) and that of the rainy season (dry or wet) in at least three cases out of five. These functions should contribute to alleviating the negative impacts of climate variability in the different climatic zones of Burkina Faso.
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  • Lodoun T
  • Sanon M
  • Giannini, A.
  • Sibiry Traoré, Pierre C.
  • Somé, Leopold
  • Rasolodimby JM



Lodoun T, Sanon M, Giannini A, Traore PS, Some L, Rasolodimby JM. 2014. Seasonal forecasts in the Sahel region: the use of rainfall-based predictive variables. Theoretical and Applied Climatology 117(3-4):485-494