Sahel, Soudan and Guinea Coast rainfall

Map of Africa regions

The Sahel is the transitional semi-arid region of North Africa south of the Sahara desert between 12.5°N and 17.5°N. Its inhabitants are sensitive to rainfall amounts in the wet season (typically July to September), with droughts causing significant hardship. Rainfall is very variable from year to year and decade to decade. The Soudan is the belt immediately to the south of the Sahel between 12.5°N and 10°N. While the wet season is wetter on average than in the Sahel, it also has considerable variability. The Guinea Coast is a humid tropical region south of 10°N encompassing the countries of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and western Nigeria. Forecasts of the most likely of five rainfall categories (very wet, wet, average, dry or very dry) are produced using dynamical forecast models. Each of these categories has occurred in one-fifth of past years.


  • Long-range forecasts are unlike weather forecasts for the next few days
  • Forecasts show the likelihood of a range of possible outcomes
  • The most likely outcome in the forecast will not always happen
  • Forecasts are for average conditions over a wide region and time period
  • For more details on interpretation, see How to use our long-range predictions


Issued July 2013

Our updated forecast for the July-August-September 2013 wet season indicates that the most likely category is 'wet' in the Sahel , 'wet' in the Soudan and 'dry' or 'very dry'  in the Guinea Coast region. For a detailed look at the 2013 prediction, see the  Updated North African rainfall forecast for JAS 2013 updated forecast for JAS 2013 (PDF, 306 kB) .


The   Updated N Africa Seasonal rainfall forecast for 2012 forecast for July-August-September 2012 (PDF, 473 kB)   favoured rainfall in the 'dry' category in the Sahel whilst the observed rainfall was in the 'very wet' category. The forecast for the Soudan indicated the 'dry' category as most likely whilst the observed rainfall was in the 'wet' category. The forecast for the Guinea Coast favoured the 'dry' category whilst the observed rainfall was in the 'dry' category. Therefore the forecast for the Guinea Coast region provided good guidance whilst the forecasts for the more northern regions were misleading. 

The table below compares observed outcomes with our past forecasts. Overall, the correlations between the predicted and observed category are 0.10 for the Sahel, 0.13 for the Soudan, and 0.29 for the Guinea Coast. In general, these do not represent a statistically significant level of skill. Our current forecast methods do demonstrate skill, however, being considerably better than earlier methods when tested in forecasts of past years.

Predicted and observed rainfall for Sahel, Soudan and the Guinea Coast
YearSahelSoudanGuinea Coast
1992drydryv. dryavgv. drydry
1993v. dry or drydryv. dryv. drydry or avgavg
1994v. dry or drywetdry or v. dryavgdry or avgavg
1995avgavgdrydryv. wetwet
1996dry or avgv. dryavgv. dryv. wetavg
1997dry or avgv. drydry or avgv. drydryv. dry
1998v. dryavgv. dryavgwet or v. wetdry
1999wetv. wetwetwetv. wetwet
2003v. wetwetwetwetv. dryavg
2004v. wetavgavgdryv. drydry
2005v. wetavgavgdryv. drydry
2006avg or wetavgdry or avgavgdry or avgdry
2007dry or avgwetdry or avgavgdry or avgwet
2009dry or avgwet dry or avgavg avg or wetdry
2010avgwetdrywetdry or v. dryv. wet
2011wetavgdryavgdry or v. drydry
2012dryv. wetdrywetdrydry

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Last updated: 30 January 2014