A spatio-temporal analysis of trends in rainfall from long term satellite rainfall products in the Sudano Sahelian zone of Nigeria

Muhammad Usman, Janet Elizabeth Nichol, Asma T. Ibrahim, Luka F. Buba

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Rainfall and its variability drive the rural economies across the Sudano-Sahelian zone of northern Nigeria, where drought strategies largely determine crop yields. The increasing scarcity of rain gauges in West Africa generally limits assessments of the degree and spatial extent of hardship arising from rainfall deficiency. However, the improved availability and robustness of satellite-based rainfall products since the early 1980s, offers an alternative source of rainfall data which is spatially, and often temporally, more complete than rain gauges. This research evaluates four satellite-based rainfall products for their ability to represent both long term rainfall trends such as recovery from decadal droughts, and trends in seasonal rainfall variables relevant to crop yield prediction. The Climate Hazards group Infrared Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS) rainfall product at 5 km resolution, was observed to be consistently most representative of ground station rainfall across northern Nigeria over a 35-year period 1981–2015, followed by TARCAT. CHIRPS was found to give a good overall prediction of rainfall amounts at dekadal, monthly and seasonal time scales, and was therefore used in the study to represent the typical performance of satellite rainfall datasets. The CHIRPS-observed increase in growing season length since the 1970s and 80s drought decades, was accompanied by significant rainfall increases in the later part of the growing season, especially marked in northern and northeastern states. This is especially important for the main subsistence crops sorghum and millet as the risk of late drought impedes swelling of the grain, affecting dry weight production. The CHIRPS data also indicate a significant decrease in dry spells in the northwest and southern parts of the study area, which would have favourable outcomes for crop production in the densely populated rural hinterlands of the cities of Sokoto, Jos and Abuja. In view of the continued intra-and inter-annual rainfall variability across northern Nigeria, and amid rapid rural population growth recently, a return to the rainfall levels of the drought decades, would require informed response. The study suggests that satellite rainfall estimates can offer such information, especially since we observed high spatial variability in rainfall distributions and trends.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-286
Number of pages14
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2018


  • Northern Nigeria
  • Rainfall recovery
  • Satellite rainfall products
  • Season rainfall variables
  • Spatio-temporal analysis
  • Sudano-Sahelian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Atmospheric Science

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