Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Research article
13 Feb 2012
Research article |  | 13 Feb 2012

The 2007 flood in the Sahel: causes, characteristics and its presentation in the media and FEWS NET

C. Samimi, A. H. Fink, and H. Paeth

Abstract. During the rainy season in 2007, reports about exceptional rains and floodings in the Sahel were published in the media, especially in August and September. Institutions and organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP) and FEWS NET put the events on the agenda and released alerts and requested help. The partly controversial picture was that most of the Sahel faced a crisis caused by widespread floodings. Our study shows that the rainy season in 2007 was exceptional with regard to rainfall amount and return periods. In many areas the event had a return period between 1 and 50 yr with high spatial heterogeneity, with the exception of the Upper Volta basin, which yielded return periods of up to 1200 yr. Despite the strong rainfall, the interpretation of satellite images show that the floods were mainly confined to lakes and river beds. However, the study also proves the difficulties in assessing the meteorological processes and the demarcation of flooded areas in satellite images without ground truthing. These facts and the somewhat vague and controversial reports in the media and FEWS NET demonstrate that it is crucial to thoroughly analyze such events at a regional and local scale involving the local population.