Analysis of Kenya’s Atmospheric Moisture Sources and Sinks

Patrick W. Keys*, Rekha Warrier, Ruud J. Van Der Ent, Kathleen A. Galvin, Randall B. Boone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is contingent on understanding the potential interactions among human and natural systems. In Kenya, the goal of conserving and expanding forest cover to achieve SDG 15 “Life on Land” may be related to other SDGs because it plays a role in regulating some aspects of Kenyan precipitation. We present a 40-yr analysis of the sources of precipitation in Kenya and the fate of the evaporation that arises from within Kenya. Using MERRA-2 climate reanalysis and the Water Accounting Model 2 layers, we examine the annual and seasonal changes in moisture sources and sinks. We find that most of Kenya’s precipitation originates as oceanic evaporation but that 10% of its precipitation originates as evaporation within Kenya. This internal recycling is concentrated in the mountainous and forested Kenyan highlands, with some locations recycling more than 15% of evaporation to Kenyan precipitation. We also find that 75% of Kenyan evaporation falls as precipitation elsewhere over land, including 10% in Kenya, 25% in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and around 5% falling in Tanzania and Uganda. Further, we find a positive relationship between increasing rates of moisture recycling and fractional forest cover within Kenya. By beginning to understand both the seasonal and biophysical interactions taking place, we may begin to understand the types of leverage points that exist for integrated atmospheric water cycle management. These findings have broader implications for disentangling environmental management and conservation and have relevance for large-scale discussions about sustainable development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
JournalEarth Interactions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Africa
  • Atmosphere–land interaction
  • Biosphere–atmosphere interaction
  • Climate services
  • Ecosystem effects
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Precipitation
  • Regional effects
  • Water budget/balance
  • Water resources
  • Water vapor


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