Journal Article Spatiotemporal variability of soil moisture over Ethiopia and its teleconnections with remote and local drivers



Soil moisture is one of the essential climate variables with a potential impact on local climate variability. Despite the importance of soil moisture, studies on soil moisture characteristics in Ethiopia are less documented. In this study, the spatiotemporal variability of Ethiopian soil moisture (SM) has been characterized, and its local and remote influential driving factors are investigated. An empirical orthogonal function (EOF) and KMeans clustering algorithm have been employed to classify the large domain into homogeneous zones. Complex maximum covariance analysis (CMCA) is applied to evaluate the covariability between SM and selected local and remote variables such as rainfall (RF), evapotranspiration (ET), and sea surface temperature (SST). Inter-comparison among SM datasets highlight that the FLDAS dataset better depicts the country’s SM spatial and temporal distribution (i.e., a correlation coefficient, with observations). Results also indicate that regions located in northeastern Ethiopia are drier irrespective of the season (JJAS, MAM, and OND) considered. In contrast, the western part of the country consistently depicted a wetter condition in all seasons. During summer (JJAS), the soil moisture variability is characterized by a strong east–west spatial contrast. The highest and lowest soil moisture values were observed across the country’s central western and eastern parts, respectively. Furthermore, analyses indicate that interannual variability of SM is dictated substantially by RF, though the impact on some regions is weaker. It is also found that ET likely drives the SM in the eastern part of Ethiopia due to a higher atmospheric moisture demand that ultimately invokes changes in surface humidity and rainfall. A composite analysis based on the extreme five wettest and driest SM years revealed a similar spatial distribution of wet SM with positive anomalies of RF across the country and ET over the southern regions. Remote SSTs are also found to have a significant influence on SM distribution. In particular, equatorial central Pacific and western Indian oceans SST anomalies are predominant factors for spatiotemporal SM variations over the country. Major global oceanic indices: Oceanic Nino Index (ONI), Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), Pacific warm pool (PACWARMPOOL), and Pacific Decadal Oscillations (PDO) are found to be closely associated with the SM anomalies in various parts of the country. The associationship between these remote SST anomalies and local soil moisture is via large-scale atmospheric circulations that are linked to regional factors such as precipitation and temperature anomalies.