Over one century of rainfall and temperature observations in addis Ababa, Ethiopia

D. Declan Conway, C. Mould, W. Bewket

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97 Citations (Scopus)


A detailed historical reconstruction and analysis is presented of the longest record of climate observations for Ethiopia, from 1898 to 2002 in Addis Ababa. Prior to 1951 the record comprises rainfall and minimum and maximum temperatures recorded in different locations by different observers. The rainfall series is complete except for 1899 and 1900, but the temperature series are very incomplete. Using documentary evidence, we attempt as far as is possible to establish the origins of all the pre-1951 observations. Rainfall observations originate from at least six different sites. After establishment of an Ethiopian meteorological department in 1951 the records are complete and, to our understanding, originate from the same location, the Addis Ababa Observatory (AAO). A revised rainfall series for 1898-1950 is derived using observations from sites with the longest records. The minimum and maximum temperature records show evidence of statistically significant inhomogeneities. Homogeneity tests on the full rainfall record (the revised series plus AAO) show it is reliable, with evidence of minor but not statistically significant breaks in the record before establishment of the AAO. Some, but not all, breaks can be accounted for using the historical information. Analysis of the records shows increasing trends in annual minimum and maximum temperatures from 1951 to 2002 (0.4 °C/decade and 0.2 °C/decade, respectively). There is little trend in rainfall from 1901-50, 1951-2002 and 1901-2002, dry years do not correspond with known drought years elsewhere in Ethiopia, and interannual variability is poorly correlated with another long rainfall series in Ethiopia (Gore), Blue Nile river flows and the southern oscillation index. This suggests strongly that the record for Addis Ababa should not be used as a proxy for conditions in Ethiopia, particularly the more drought-prone areas to the north and east. We conclude that the temperature series are suspect but that the full rainfall record is useful for analysis of long-term rainfall conditions in Addis Ababa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-91
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • upper blue-nile
  • climate forecasts
  • africa

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