Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and plays an important role in water supply, hydropower generation, agriculture and fisheries in the region. Lake level observations started in the 1890s and anecdotal evidence of variations dates back to the early 1800s. A chronology of lake level and outflow variations is presented together with updated estimates for the net inflow to the lake. The inflow series and selected rainfall records were also analysed using an unobserved component approach and, although there was little evidence of long-term trends, there was some indication of increasing interannual variability in recent decades. A weak quasi-periodic behaviour was also noted with a period of approximately 4–8 years. The results provide useful insights into the severity of drought and flood events in the region since the 1890s and the potential for seasonal forecasting of lake levels and outflows.

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