Skip to main content

The Falling Lake Victoria Water Level: GRACE, TRIMM and CHAMP Satellite Analysis of the Lake Basin

Abstract

In the last 5 years, Lake Victoria water level has seen a dramatic fall that has caused alarm to water resource managers. Since the lake basin contributes about 20% of the lakes water in form of discharge, with 80% coming from direct rainfall, this study undertook a satellite analysis of the entire lake basin in an attempt to establish the cause of the decline. Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE), Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload (CHAMP) satellites were employed in the analysis. Using 45 months of data spanning a period of 4 years (2002–2006), GRACE satellite data are used to analyse the variation of the geoid (equipotential surface approximating the mean sea level) triggered by variation in the stored waters within the lake basin. TRMM Level 3 monthly data for the same period of time are used to compute mean rainfall for a spatial coverage of .25°×.25° (25×25 km) and the rainfall trend over the same period analyzed. To assess the effect of evaporation, 59 CHAMP satellite’s occultation for the period 2001 to 2006 are analyzed for tropopause warming. GRACE results indicate an annual fall in the geoid by 1.574 mm/year during the study period 2002–2006. This fall clearly demonstrates the basin losing water over these period. TRMM results on the other hand indicate the rainfall over the basin (and directly over the lake) to have been stable during this period. The CHAMP satellite results indicate the tropopause temperature to have fallen in 2002 by about 3.9 K and increased by 2.2 K in 2003 and remained above the 189.5 K value of 2002. The tropopause heights have shown a steady increase from a height of 16.72 m in 2001 and has remained above this value reaching a maximum of 17.59 km in 2005, an increase in height by 0.87 m. Though the basin discharge contributes only 20%, its decline has contributed to the fall in the lake waters. Since rainfall over the period remained stable, and temperatures did not increase drastically to cause massive evaporation, the remaining major contributor is the discharge from the expanded Owen Falls dam.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Altunkaynak A (2006) Forecasting surface water level fluctuations of Lake Van by Artificial Neural Networks. Water Resour Manag 21:399–408

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Amitai E, Marks DA, Wolff DB, Silberstein DS, Fisher BL, Pippitt JL (2006) Evaluation of radar rainfall products: lessons learned from the NASA TRMM validation program in Florida. J Atmos Ocean Technol 23:1492–1505

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Awange JL, Ong’ang’a O (2006) Lake Victoria: ecology, resources and environment. Springer, Heidelberg

    Google Scholar 

  • Awange JL, Grafarend E (2005) Solving algebraic computational problems in geodesy and geoinformatics. The answer to modern challenges. Springer, Berlin

    Google Scholar 

  • Awange JL, Fukuda Y, Takemoto S, Wickert J, Aoyama Y (2004) Analytic solution of GPS atmospheric sounding refraction angles. Earth Planets Space 56:573–587

    Google Scholar 

  • Crowley JW, Mitrovica JX, Bailey RC, Tamisiea ME, Davis JL (2006) Land water storage within the Congo Basin inferred from GRACE satellite gravity data. Geophys Res Lett 33:L19402. doi:10.1029/2006GL027070

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dinku T, Anagnostou EN (2006) TRMM calibration of SSM/I algorithm for overland rainfall estimation. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 45:875–886

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunn C, Bertiger W, Bar-Sever Y, Desai S, Haines B, Kuang D, Franklin G, Harris I, Kruizinga G, Meehan T, Nandi S, Nguyen D, Rogstad T, Thomas JB, Tien J, Romans L,Watkins M, Wu S-C, Bettadpur S, Kim J (2003) Instrument of GRACE – GPS augments gravity measurements. GPS World, 1 February 2003

  • EAC (East African Community) (2006) Lake Victoria basin commission. Special report on the decline of water levels of Lake Victoria. EAC Secretariat, Arusha, Tanzania

  • Gurbunov ME, Gurvich AS, Bengtsson L (1996) Advanced algorithms of inversion of GPS/MET satellite data and their application to the reconstruction of temperature and humidity, Rep. No. 211, Max-Plunk-Institut für Meteorologie. Hamburg, Germany

  • Heiskanen WA, Moritz H (1967) Physical geodesy. Freeman and Company, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Hinderer J, Andersen O, Lemoine F, Crossley D, Boy JP (2006) Seasonal changes in the European gravity field from GRACE: a comparison with superconducting gravimeters and hydrology model predictions. J Geodyn 41:59–68

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hildebrand PH (2005) Toward an improved understanding of the global fresh water budget. A symposium on living with a limited water supply 85th AMS Annual Meeting, 9-13 January, San Diego

  • Kalivas DP, Kollias VJ, Karantounias G (2003) A GIS for the assessment of the spatio-temporal changes of the Kotychi lagoon, western Peloponnese, Greece. Water Resour Manag 17:19–36

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kayombo S, Jorgensen SE (2006) Lake Victoria: experience and lessons learned brief. International Lake Environment Committee, Lake Basin Management Initiative, Kusatsu, Japan. Available at: http://www.ilec.or.jp/eg/lbmi/reports/27_Lake_Victoria_27February2006.pdf

  • Kull D (2006) Connections between recent water level drops in Lake Victoria, dam operations and drought. Available at: http://www.irn.org/programs/nile/pdf/060208vic.pdf. Cited 18th May 2006

  • Kummerow C, Barnes W (1998) The tropical rainfall measuring mission (TRMM) sensor package. J Atmos Ocean Technol 15:809–817

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li XY, Xu HY, Sun YL, Zhang DS, Yang ZP (2007) Lake-level change and water balance analysis at Lake Qinghai, West China during recent decades. Water Resour Manag doi:10.1007/s11269-006-9096-1 (in press)

  • Loukas A, Mylopoulos N, Vasiliades L (2006) A modeling system for the evaluation of water resources management strategies in Thessaly, Greece. Water Resour Manag doi:10.1007/s11269-006-9120-5 (in press)

  • Mendoza ME, Bocco G, Bravo M, Granados EL, Osterkamp WR (2006) Predicting water-surface fluctuation of continental lakes: a RS and GIS based approach in Central Mexico. Water Resour Manag 20:291–311

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Melbourne WG, Davis ES, Duncan CB, Hajj GA, Hardy K, Kursinski R, Mechan TK, Young LE, Yunck TP (1994) The application of space borne GPS to atmospheric limb sounding and global change monitoring. JPL Publ 94–18

  • Mylopoulos N, Mylopoulos Y, Tolikas D, Veranis N (2006) Groundwater modeling and management in a complex lake-aquifer system. Water Resour Manag 21:469–494

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nicholson SE (1998) Historical fluctuations of Lake Victoria and other lakes in the Northern Rift Valley of East Africa. In: Lehman JT (ed) Environmental change and response in East African lakes. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 7–35

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicholson SE (1999) Historical and modern fluctuations of lakes Tanganyika and Rukwa and their relationship to rainfall variability. Clim Change 41:53–71

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Owes TY, Taimeh AY (1996) Evaluation of small basin water harvesting system in arid region of Jordan. Water Resour Manag 10:21–34

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Phoon SY, Shamseldin AY, Vairavamoorthy K (2004) Assessing impacts on Lake Victoria basin, Africa. 30th WEDC International Conference. Vientiane, Lao PDR

  • Ramillien G, Cazenave A, Brunau O (2004) Global time variations of hydrological signals from GRACE satellite gravimetry. Geophys J Int 158:813–826

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ramillien G, Frappart F, Cazenave A, Güntner A (2005) The variation of land water storage from an inversion of 2 years GRACE geoids. Earth Planet Sci Lett 235:283–301

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reigber C, Schwintzer P, Lühr H, Wickert J (2005) Earth observation with CHAMP: results from three years in orbit. Springer Verlag

  • Riebeek H (2006) Lake Victoria’s falling waters. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/Victoria/printall.php

  • Rodell M, Familglietti JS (2001) Terrestrial water storage variations over Illinois: analysis of observations and implications for GRACE. Water Resour Res 37(5):1327–1340

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rodell M, Famiglietti JS, Chen J, Seneviratne SI, Viterbo P, Holl S, Wilson CR (2004) Basin scale estimates of evapotranspiration using GRACE and other observations. Geophys Res Lett 31:(L20504)1–4

    Google Scholar 

  • Rodell M, Johnson N, Famiglietti JS, Chen J, Seneviratne SI, Holl S, Viterbo (2005) Comparison of GRACE derived terrestrial water storage changes with model, water budget, and observation based estimates. A symposium on living with a limited water supply 85th AMS Annual Meeting, 9–13 January, San Diego

  • Rodell M, Famiglietti JS (2005) The potential of satellite based monitoring of ground water storage changes using GRACE: The high plains aquifer, Central US. J Hydrol 263:245–256

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steiner AK (1998) High resolution sounding of key climate variables using the radio occultation technique. Dissertation, Institute for Meteorology and Geophysics, University of Graz No. 3

  • Sanderson VL, Kidd C, McGregor GR (2006) A comparison of TRMM microwave techniques for detecting the diurnal rainfall cycle. J Hydrometeorol 7:687–704

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shige S, Sasaki H, Okamoto K, Iguchi T (2006) Validation of rainfall estimates from the TRMM precipitation radar and microwave imager using a radiative transfer model: 1. Comparison of the version-5 and -6 products. Geophys Res Lett 33:L13803. doi:10.1029/2006GL026350

  • Smith AB, Walker JP, Western AW, Ellet KM (2005) Using ground-based gravity measurements to monitor changes in terrestial water storage. Engineers Australia 29th Hydrology and Water Resource Symposium 21–23, February 2005, Canberra

  • Tapley B, Reigber C (2004) GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). In: McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology

  • Tapley BD, Bettadpur S, Watkins MM, Reigber CH (2004a) The gravity recovery and climate experiment: mission overview and early results. Geophys Res Lett 31, L09607. doi:10.1029/2004GL019920

  • Tapley BD, Bettadpur S, Ries JC, Thompson PF, Watkins MM (2004b) GRACE measurements of mass variability in the Earth system. Science 305:503–505

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • TSDIS (2006) Tropical rainfall measuring mission science data and information system. Interface control specification between the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Science Data and Information System (TSDIS) and the TSDIS Science User (TSU) TSDIS-P907, vol 4: File Specifications for TRMM Products – Level 2 and Level 3 Release 6.07, code 902

  • Tsuda T, Heki K, Miyazaki S, Aonashi K, Hirahara K, Tobita M, Kimata F, Tabei T, Matsushima T, Kimura F, Satomura M, Kato T, Naito I (1998) GPS meteorology project of Japan – Exploring frontiers of geodesy. Earth Planets Space 50(10):i–v

    Google Scholar 

  • Viltard N, Burlaud C, Kummerow CD (2006) Rain retrieval from TMI brightness temperature measurements using a TRMM PR-based database. J Appl Meteorol Climatol 45:455–466

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vorob’ev VV, Krasil’nikova TG (1994) Estimation of the accuracy of the atmospheric refractive index recovery from Doppler shift measurements at frequencies used in the NAVSTAR system. Phys Atmos Ocean 29:602–609

    Google Scholar 

  • Wagner C, McAdoo D, Klokocník J, Kostelecký J (2006) Degradation of geopotential recovery from short repeat-cycle orbits: application to GRACE monthly fields. J Geod 80:94–103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wahr J, Molennar M, Bryan F (1998) Time variability of the Earth’s gravity field: hydrological and oceanic effects and their possible detection using GRACE. J Geophys Res 103(B12): 30205–30229

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wickert J, Beyerle G, Schmidt T, Marquardt C, König R, Grundwaldt L, Reigher C (2003) GPS radio occultation with CHAMP. In: Reigber C, Lühr H, Schwintzer P (eds) First CHAMP mission results for gravity, magnetic and atmospheric studies. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 371–383

    Google Scholar 

  • Wickert J, Schmidt T, Beyerle G, König R, Reigber C, Jakowski N (2004) The radio occultation experiment aboard CHAMP: operational data analysis and validation of vertical atmospheric profiles. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 82(1B):381–395, special issue application of GPS remote sensing to meteorology and related fields

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wickert J, Schmidt T, Beyerle G, Michalak G, König R, Heise S, Reigher C (2006a) GPS radio occultation with CHAMP and GRACE: recent results. In: Foelsche U, Kirchengast G, Steiner A (eds) Atmosphere and climate: studies by occultation methods. Springer, Berlin, pp 3–16

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Wickert J, Schmidt T, Beyerle G, Heise S, Reigber C (2006b) Global atmospheric sounding with GPS radio occultation aboard CHAMP. In: Flury J, Rummel R, Reigber C, Rothacher M, Boedecker G, Schreiber U (eds) Observation of the Earth system from space. Springer, Berlin, pp 55–67

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • WMO (1986) Atmospheric ozone, Tech. Rep. 16. World Meteorological Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland 1986

  • Xia J, Zhang L, Liu C, Yu J (2006) Towards better water security in North China. Water Resour Manag 21:233–247

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xu CY, Singh VP (2004) A review on monthly water balance models for water resources investigations. Water Resour Manag 12:20–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xu L, Zhang Q, Li H, Viney NR, Xu J, Liu J (2007) Modeling of surface runoff in Xitiaoxi catchment, China. Water Resour Manag doi:10.1007/s11269-006-9083-6 (in press)

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joseph L. Awange.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Awange, J.L., Sharifi, M.A., Ogonda, G. et al. The Falling Lake Victoria Water Level: GRACE, TRIMM and CHAMP Satellite Analysis of the Lake Basin. Water Resour Manage 22, 775–796 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11269-007-9191-y

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11269-007-9191-y

Keywords

  • Lake Victoria
  • Water balance
  • Tropopause temperature
  • Rainfall
  • CHAMP
  • GRACE
  • TRMM