Hydrologic and related climate and biogeochemical research on the Congo Basin has reached a threshold.  Since Marlier published in 1973 that in comparison to the Congo Basin, “We know less about the physical characteristics of the Amazon” the Congo Basin has experienced little outside help while Amazon research has mushroomed both internally to its basin and internationally.  In reality, important advances have been made regarding Congo hydrology, but these have been kept within country or within language and certainly are limited by economics.  Indeed, the prevailing opinion outside of the Congo is that the basin is unreachable and therefore not worth studying.  It is imperative that AGU lead the global scientific community over this threshold.

The goal of this Chapman Conference is to overcome these barriers and to be the founding point where new scientific discoveries were imagined.  Discoveries that the conference will explore include those fundamental to hydrology, biogeochemistry, and climatology. Sessions will focus on seven hypotheses that each have potential for discovery whether or not the hypothesis is proven true or proven false (more details are available via a paper freely available in Reviews of Geophysics written in both English and in French (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016RG000517/abstract).

  • The water in the Cuvette Centrale is supplied mostly by rainfall.
  • The water empties from the Cuvette Centrale mostly by ET.
  • Despite known variations in the discharges of the Congo and Oubangui rivers, previous rainfall amounts have varied comparatively less across the basin.
  • Because of its tropical location beneath the ITCZ, the Congo Basin will experience significant changes in both rainfall amounts and geographic locations from climate change.
  • Deforestation of 30% of the headwater sub-basins will significantly increase headwater flows and hence increase downstream discharges.
  • Future hydroelectric power generation will not impact waters flowing in rivers and wetlands.
  • The annual average amount of CO2 and CH4 evasion from all Congo Basin waters is more than 1500 Tg-C/yr, i.e., more than a value comparable to that of the Amazon per unit area.

The conference will occur in Washington D.C. over three full days with both oral and poster sessions devoted to the hypotheses.  Participation will be open to anyone.  Key speakers will include Congolese researchers who have been studying their basin for decades as well as international researchers known for their remote sensing, modeling, and especially for their scientific intellect.   We expect that some of the hypotheses might be answered during the Chapman conference; some might be further honed so that future research can be properly directed; and some might be waitlisted for a time when greater amounts of measurements are available.  In this manner we expect to be able to provide funding agencies with a roadmap they can use at their discretion.  We expect that funding agencies, including U.S. and especially foundations from around the world, will participate in the conference.