Exploration of Non-Linear and Non-Stationary Approaches to Statistical Seasonal Forecasting in the Sahel

Title: Exploration of Non-Linear and Non-Stationary Approaches to Statistical Seasonal Forecasting in the Sahel
Authors: Gado Djibo, Abdouramane
Date: 2016
Abstract: Water resources management in the Sahel region of West Africa is extremely difficult because of high inter-annual rainfall variability as well as a general reduction of water availability in the region. Observed changes in streamflow directly disturb key socioeconomic activities such as the agriculture sector, which constitutes one of the main survival pillars of the West African population. Seasonal rainfall forecasting is considered as one possible way to increase resilience to climate variability by providing information in advance about the amount of rainfall expected in each upcoming rainy season. Moreover, the availability of reliable information about streamflow magnitude a few months before a rainy season will immensely benefit water users who want to plan their activities. However, since the 90s, several studies have attempted to evaluate the predictability of Sahelian weather characteristics and develop seasonal rainfall and streamflow forecast models to help stakeholders take better decisions. Unfortunately, two decades later, forecasting is still difficult, and forecasts have a limited value for decision-making. It is believed that the low performance in seasonal forecasting is due to the limits of commonly used predictors and forecast approaches for this region. In this study, new seasonal forecasting approaches are developed and new predictors tested in an attempt to predict the seasonal rainfall over the Sirba watershed located in between Niger and Burkina Faso, in West Africa. Using combined statistical methods, a pool of 84 predictors with physical links with the West African monsoon and its dynamics were selected, with their optimal lag times. They were first reduced through screening using linear correlation with satellite rainfall over West Africa. Correlation analysis and principal component analysis were used to keep the most predictive principal components. Linear regression was used to get synthetic forecasts, and the model was assessed to rank the tested predictors. The three best predictors, air temperature (from Pacific Tropical North), sea level pressure (from Atlantic Tropical South) and relative humidity (from Mediterranean East) were retained and tested as inputs for seasonal rainfall forecasting models. In this thesis it has been chosen to depart from the stationarity and linearity assumptions used in most seasonal forecasting methods: 1. Two probabilistic non-stationary methods based on change point detection were developed and tested. Each method uses one of the three best predictors. Model M1 allows for changes in model parameters according to annual rainfall magnitude, while M2 allows for changes in model parameters with time. M1 and M2 were compared to the classical linear model with constant parameters (M3) and to the linear model with climatology (M4). The model allowing changes in the predictand-predictor relationship according to rainfall amplitude (M1) and using AirTemp as a predictor was the best model for seasonal rainfall forecasting in the study area. 2. Non-linear models including regression trees, feed-forward neural networks and non-linear principal component analysis were implemented and tested to forecast seasonal rainfall using the same predictors. Forecast performances were compared using coefficients of determination, Nash-Sutcliffe coefficients and hit rate scores. Non-linear principal component analysis was the best non-linear model (R2: 0.46; Nash: 0.45; HIT: 60.7), while the feed-forward neural networks and regression tree models performed poorly. All the developed rainfall forecasting methods were subsequently used to forecast seasonal annual mean streamflow and maximum monthly streamflow by introducing the rainfall forecasted in a SWAT model of the Sirba watershed, and the results are summarized as follows: 1. Non-stationary models: Models M1 and M2 were compared to models M3 and M4, and the results revealed that model M3 using RHUM as a predictor at a lag time of 8 months was the best method for seasonal annual mean streamflow forecasting, whereas model M1 using air temperature as a predictor at a lag time of 4 months was the best model to predict maximum monthly streamflow in the Sirba watershed. Moreover, the calibrated SWAT model achieved a NASH value of 0.83. 2. Non-linear models: The seasonal rainfall obtained from the non-linear principal component analysis model was disaggregated into daily rainfall using the method of fragment, and then fed into the SWAT hydrological model to produce streamflow. This forecast was fairly acceptable, with a Nash value of 0.58. The evaluation of the level of risk associated with each seasonal forecast was carried out using a simple risk measure: the probability of overtopping of the flood protection dykes in Niamey, Niger. A HEC-RAS hydrodynamic model of the Niger River around Niamey was developed for the 1980-2014 period, and a copula analysis was used to model the dependence structure of streamflows and predict the distribution of streamflow in Niamey given the predicted streamflow on the Sirba watershed. Finally, the probabilities of overtopping of the flood protection dykes were estimated for each year in the 1980-2014 period. The findings of this study can be used as a guideline to improve the performance of seasonal forecasting in the Sahel. This research clearly confirmed the possibility of rainfall and streamflow forecasting in the Sirba watershed at a seasonal time scale using potential predictors other than sea surface temperature.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/35130
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -