Simulating the response of a closed-basin lake to recent climate changes in tropical West Africa (Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana)

Timothy M. Shanahan, Jonathan T. Overpeck, W. E. Sharp, Christopher A. Scholz, Justice A. Arko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Historical changes in the level of Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, have been simulated using a catchment-scale hydrological model in order to assess the importance of changes in climate and land use on lake water balance on a monthly basis for the period 1939-2004. Several commonly used models for computing evaporation in data-sparse regions are compared, including the Penman, the energy budget, and the Priestley - Taylor methods. Based on a comparison with recorded lake level variations, the model with the energy-budget evaporation model subcomponent is most effective at reproducing observed lake level variations using regional climate records. A sensitivity analysis using this model indicates that Lake Bosumtwi is highly sensitive to changes in precipitation, cloudiness and temperature. However, the model is also sensitive to changes in runoff related to vegetation, and this factor needs to be considered in simulating lake level variations. Both interannual and longer-term changes in lake level over the last 65 years appear to have been caused primarily by changes in precipitation, though the model also suggests that the drop in lake level over the last few decades has been moderated by changes in cloudiness and temperature over that time. Based on its effectiveness at simulating the magnitude and rate of lake level response to changing climate over the historical record, this model offers a potential future opportunity to examine the palaeoclimatic factors causing past lake level fluctuations preserved in the geological record at Lake Bosumtwi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1678-1691
Number of pages14
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 30 2007


  • Climate change
  • Lake level variation
  • Penman method
  • Priestley-Taylor method
  • Water-balance model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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