A progressively wetter climate in southern East Africa over the past 1.3 million years

T. C. Johnson, J. P. Werne, E. T. Brown, A. Abbott, M. Berke, B. A. Steinman, J. Halbur, S. Contreras, S. Grosshuesch, A. Deino, C. A. Scholz, R. P. Lyons, S. Schouten, J. S Sinninghe Damsté

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

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Abstract

African climate is generally considered to have evolved towards progressively drier conditions over the past few million years, with increased variability as glacial-interglacial change intensified worldwide. Palaeoclimate records derived mainly from northern Africa exhibit a 100,000-year (eccentricity) cycle overprinted on a pronounced 20,000-year (precession) beat, driven by orbital forcing of summer insolation, global ice volume and long-lived atmospheric greenhouse gases. Here we present a 1.3-million-year-long climate history from the Lake Malawi basin (10°-14° S in eastern Africa), which displays strong 100,000-year (eccentricity) cycles of temperature and rainfall following the Mid-Pleistocene Transition around 900,000 years ago. Interglacial periods were relatively warm and moist, while ice ages were cool and dry. The Malawi record shows limited evidence for precessional variability, which we attribute to the opposing effects of austral summer insolation and the temporal/spatial pattern of sea surface temperature in the Indian Ocean. The temperature history of the Malawi basin, at least for the past 500,000 years, strongly resembles past changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and terrigenous dust flux in the tropical Pacific Ocean, but not in global ice volume. Climate in this sector of eastern Africa (unlike northern Africa) evolved from a predominantly arid environment with high-frequency variability to generally wetter conditions with more prolonged wet and dry intervals.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages220-224
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume537
Issue number7619
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 10 2016

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Southern Africa
Malawi
Eastern Africa
Ice
Climate
Temperature
Northern Africa
Pacific Ocean
Indian Ocean
Lakes
Dust
Carbon Dioxide
Oceans and Seas
Gases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • General

Cite this

Johnson, T. C., Werne, J. P., Brown, E. T., Abbott, A., Berke, M., Steinman, B. A., ... Damsté, J. S. S. (2016). A progressively wetter climate in southern East Africa over the past 1.3 million years. Nature, 537(7619), 220-224. DOI: 10.1038/nature19065

A progressively wetter climate in southern East Africa over the past 1.3 million years. / Johnson, T. C.; Werne, J. P.; Brown, E. T.; Abbott, A.; Berke, M.; Steinman, B. A.; Halbur, J.; Contreras, S.; Grosshuesch, S.; Deino, A.; Scholz, C. A.; Lyons, R. P.; Schouten, S.; Damsté, J. S Sinninghe.

In: Nature, Vol. 537, No. 7619, 10.08.2016, p. 220-224.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Johnson, TC, Werne, JP, Brown, ET, Abbott, A, Berke, M, Steinman, BA, Halbur, J, Contreras, S, Grosshuesch, S, Deino, A, Scholz, CA, Lyons, RP, Schouten, S & Damsté, JSS 2016, 'A progressively wetter climate in southern East Africa over the past 1.3 million years' Nature, vol 537, no. 7619, pp. 220-224. DOI: 10.1038/nature19065
Johnson TC, Werne JP, Brown ET, Abbott A, Berke M, Steinman BA et al. A progressively wetter climate in southern East Africa over the past 1.3 million years. Nature. 2016 Aug 10;537(7619):220-224. Available from, DOI: 10.1038/nature19065
Johnson, T. C. ; Werne, J. P. ; Brown, E. T. ; Abbott, A. ; Berke, M. ; Steinman, B. A. ; Halbur, J. ; Contreras, S. ; Grosshuesch, S. ; Deino, A. ; Scholz, C. A. ; Lyons, R. P. ; Schouten, S. ; Damsté, J. S Sinninghe. / A progressively wetter climate in southern East Africa over the past 1.3 million years. In: Nature. 2016 ; Vol. 537, No. 7619. pp. 220-224
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