Debilitating floods in the Sahel are becoming frequent

Nadir Ahmed Elagib, Islam Sabry Al Zayed, Suhair A.Gayoum Saad, Mohamad Ibrahim Mahmood, Mohammed Basheer, Andreas H. Fink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the long-lasting and widespread drought in the Sahel, flood events did punctuate in the past. The concern about floods remains dwarf on the international research and policy agenda compared to droughts. In this paper, we elucidate that floods in the Sahel are now becoming more frequent, widespread, and more devastating. We analyzed gridded daily rainfall data over the period 1981–2020, used photographs and satellite images to depict flood areas and threats, compiled and studied flood-related statistics over the past two decades, and supported the results with peer-reviewed literature. Our analysis revealed that the timing of the maximum daily rainfall occurs from the last week of July to mid-August in the Eastern Sahel, but from the last week of July to the end of August in the Western Sahel. In 2019 and 2020, flash and riverine floods took their toll in Sudan and elsewhere in the region in terms of the number of affected people, direct deaths, destroyed and damaged houses and croplands, contaminated water resources, and disease outbreaks and deaths. Changes in rainfall intensity, human interventions in the physical environment, and poor urban planning play a major role in driving catastrophic floods. Emphasis should be put on understanding flood causes and impacts on vulnerable societies, controlling water-borne diseases, and recognizing the importance of compiling relevant and reliable flood information. Extreme rainfall in this dry region could be an asset for attenuating the regional water scarcity status if well harvested and managed. We hope this paper will induce the hydroclimate scholars to carry out more flood studies for the Sahel. It is only then encumbered meaningful opportunities for flood risk management can start to unveil.
Original languageEnglish
Article number126362
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Early online date22 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Adaptation
  • Extremes
  • Flash flood
  • Flood forecasting
  • Flood impact
  • Riverine flood
  • Sahel

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute


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