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DEM-optical-radar data integration for palaeohydrological mapping in the northern Darfur, Sudan: implication for groundwater exploration

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North-western Sudan, as a part of the eastern Sahara, is among the driest places on earth. However, the region underwent drastic climatic changes through the alternation of dry and wet conditions in the past. During humid phases, when the rain was plentiful over a prolonged time period, the surface was veined by rivers and dotted by large lakes. The new Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data (SRTM ∼90 m) revealed a large endorheic drainage basin, which is centred by a large terminal palaeolake, in the northern Darfur State. The use of GIS methods allowed the delineation of the drainage basin and its associated palaeorivers. The SRTM data along with the Landsat (ETM+) and Radarsat-1 images corroborate the presence of segments of palaeoshorelines associated with the palaeolake highstands. These constitute a convincing argument of the long-term existence of a possible pre-Holocene large water body in the region in the past. The remains of the highest palaeoshoreline have a constant altitude of 573±3 m asl. At its maximum extent, the mega Lake occupied an area of about 30 750 km2 (the same size as the Great Bear Lake, Canada's largest lake), which would have contained approximately 2530 km3 of water. This, ancestral lake, which we named the Northern Darfur Megalake (ND Megalake), represents indisputable evidence of the past pluvial conditions in the eastern Sahara. The discovered palaeoshorelines will have significant consequences for improving our knowledge of continental climate change and regional palaeohydorology, and should be taken into consideration in studies of past human habitation in the region. Much of the water carried by the Northern Darfur palaeorivers and the ND Megalake would have percolated into the underlying rocks feeding the Nubian Sandston aquifer. These findings show that the used approach of space-data integration can help significantly in the groundwater exploration efforts in the Darfur region, where freshwater access is essential for refugee survival, and can be successfully adopted in other parts of Sudan and arid lands in general.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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