ReACHyn: Recent Atmospheric Change and the Hydrology of the Niger

ReACHyn: Recent Atmospheric Change and the Hydrology of the Niger

Project Team

Professor Damian Lawler

Dr Babatunde Anifowose


BES Pilot Funding




January 2014 to December 2017


University of Rouen, France

Fig. 1: Satellite Imagery of West Africa showing course of the River Niger  and approximate location of its active watershed in 2008. Source: Anifowose et al. (2012)


The immense River Niger is one of the largest rivers in the world, and the third longest in Africa after the Rivers Nile and Congo. It is a truly international navigable conduit for travel, trade, conflict and pollution, and the Niger flows through nine West African countries (Fig. 1). Over 100 million people depend on it for socioeconomic benefits (e.g. agriculture, fisheries, transport and hydropower generation). However, few systematic studies of river flow changes with respect to atmospheric circulation systems, rainfall distributions and land-use changes exist for the entire length of major African rivers. This is our Research Gap.


In spring 2014, we began this project to quantify the temporal changes of flow patterns in the River Niger. We will test for flow trend, seasonality and other cyclicity and their atmospheric controls. The new understanding will help define connections between flow changes and climate, and allow for initial future flow estimates given likely climate changes. In addition, we will also test for the longitudinal continuity of flow changes and their controls across this vast system. The results will also inform policy on riverine oil slick migration and water resource management. In particular, the work should help to predict oil spill travel time near oil pipeline river crossings – and its variation with flow level and season.  This should provide the basis for a useful warning system for local inhabitants and international river users.

For analyses, we will develop the hydroclimatological, time series and GIS approaches we used in other countries and continents (e.g. Lawler et al. 2003; Dixon, Lawler et al. 2006; Kingston et al. 2006a; 2006b; 2007; 2009; 2011; Anifowose, Lawler et al. 2012, 2014). For flow explanations in the tidal zone, we will of course be ‘ReACHyN’ for the moon!

Dr Babatunde Anifowose gained his PhD at University of Birmingham in 2009, working with Professor Damian Lawler (when both at Birmingham) as his Director of Studies. They have published several papers since on oil / water pollution problems and Environmental Impact in Nigeria (see example papers below).


Anifowose, B.A., Lawler, D.M., van der Horst, D., and Chapman, L.C. (2012) 'Attacks on oil transport pipelines in Nigeria: a quantitative exploration and possible explanation of observed patterns'. Applied Geography 32, 636-651

Anifowose, B.A., Lawler, D.M., van der Horst, D. and Chapman, L.C. (2014). Evaluating interdiction of oil pipelines at river crossings using Environmental Impact Assessments, Area (journal of the Royal Geographical Society) 46.1, pp.4-17, doi: 10.1111/area.12065.

Dixon, H. Lawler, D. and Shamseldin, A. (2006). Streamflow trends in western Britain, Geophysical Research Letters33, L19406, doi:10.1029/2006GL027325, 1-7.

Kingston, D., Lawler, D.M., and McGregor, G.R. (2006a) 'Linkages between atmospheric circulation, climate and streamflow in the northern North Atlantic: research prospects'Progress in Physical Geography 30 (2), 143-174.

Kingston, D.G., McGregor, G. R., Hannah, D. M. and Lawler, D. M. (2006b) ‘River flow teleconnections across the northern North Atlantic region’, Geophysical Research Letters, 33(14).

Kingston, D., McGregor, G.R., Hannah, D.M., and Lawler, D.M. (2007) 'Large-Scale Climatic Controls on New England River Flow'Journal of Hydrometeorology 8, 367-378.

Kingston, D., Hannah, D.M., Lawler, D.M., and McGregor, G.R. (2009) 'Climate–river flow relationships across montane and lowland environments in northern Europe'Hydrological Processes 23 (7), 985-996.

Kingston, D., Hannah, D.M., Lawler, D.M., and McGregor, G.R. (2011) 'Regional classification, variability, and trends of northern North Atlantic river flow'Hydrological Processes 25 (7), 1021-1033.

Lawler, D.M., McGregor, G.R. and Phillips, I.D. (2003). Influence of atmospheric circulation changes and regional climate variability on river flow and suspended sediment fluxes in southern Iceland, Hydrological Processes 17, 3195 – 3223.

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