Long-term rainfall characteristics in the Mzingwane catchment of south-western Zimbabwe

  • S. SibandaEmail author
  • S.W. Grab
  • F. Ahmed
Original Paper


Rainfall characteristics during the annual rainy season are explored for the Mzingwane catchment of south-western Zimbabwe, for both historic period (1886–1906) and more recent times (1950–2015), based on available daily and monthly precipitation series. Annual and seasonal rainfall trends are determined using the modified Mann-Kendall test, magnitude of trends test and Sen’s slope estimator. Rainfall variability is quantified using the coefficient of variation (CV), precipitation concentration index (PCI) and standard precipitation index (SPI). Results suggest that contemporary mean annual rainfall may not have changed from that measured during the historic period of 1886–1906. However, the number of rainy days (≥ 1 mm) has decreased by 34%, thus suggesting much more concentrated and increased rainfall intensity. A notable shift in both the onset and cessation dates of the rainy season is recorded, particularly during the twenty-first century, which has resulted in a significantly reduced (p < 0.05) length of the rainy season. The combination of a reduced number of rainy days (≥ 1 mm) and a shortened rainy season suggests that long intra-season dry spells have become more common through time and have considerable negative consequences for agriculture and wetland ecosystem in the region. In addition, high spatio-temporal rainfall variability and seasonal PCI values indicate strong seasonality in the rainy season. Based on the SPI results, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) strongly influences rainfall variability. The results further suggest high uncertainty in rain season characteristics, which requires effective planning for water needs.



We would like to express our gratitude to the Department of Meteorological Services of Zimbabwe for the provision of observed monthly and daily rainfall data used in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lupane State UniversityLupaneZimbabwe
  2. 2.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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