1 International Journal of Climatology 2004 Vol: 24(11):1323-1331. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1083

The recent Sahel drought is real

Using station rainfall data extracted from two comprehensive data sets, we show that large decreasing rainfall trends were widespread in the Sahel (10–20°N and 18°W–20°E) from the late 1950s to the late 1980s. Thereafter, Sahel rainfall has recovered somewhat through 2003, although the drought conditions have not ended in the region. These results confirm the findings of many previous studies. We also found that large multi-year oscillations appear to be more frequent and extreme after the late 1980s than previously. Analyses of Sahel regional rainfall time series derived from a fixed subset of stations and from all available stations show that the decreasing trend in Sahel rainfall is not an artifact of changing station networks. The rainfall model used by Chappell and Agnew (2004 International Journal of Climatology24: 547–554) is incorrect and their modelled rainfall time series is totally unrepresentative of Sahel average rainfall. Their conclusion about the Sahel rainfall trends being an artifact of changing station locations is emphatically wrong and their speculative statements about the implications of their results for other studies and other regions of the world are completely unfounded. Copyright © 2004 Royal Meteorological Society