African hydroclimatic variability during the last 2000 years

David Nash, G. De Cort, B. Chase, Dirk Verschuren, S. Nicholson, Timothy Shanahan, Asfawossen Asrat, A.-M. Lezine, S. Grab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The African continent is characterised by a wide range of hydroclimate regimes, ranging from humid equatorial West Africa to the arid deserts in the northern and southern subtropics. The livelihoods of much of its population are also vulnerable to future climate change, mainly through variability in rainfall affecting water resource availability. A growing number of data sources indicate that such hydroclimatic variability is an intrinsic component of Africa's natural environment. This paper, co-authored by members of the PAGES Africa 2k Working Group, presents an extensive assessment and discussion of proxy, historical and instrumental evidence for hydroclimatic variability across the African continent, spanning the last two millennia. While the African palaeoenvironmental record is characterised by spatially disjunctive datasets, with often less-than-optimal temporal resolution and chronological control, the available evidence allows the assessment of prominent spatial patterns of palaeomoisture variability through time. In this study, we focus sequentially on data for six major time windows: the first millennium AD, the Medieval Climate Anomaly (900-1250 CE), the Little Ice Age (1250-1750 CE), the end of the LIA (1750-1850 CE), the Early Modern Period (1850-1950), and the period of recent warming (1950 onwards). This results in a continent-wide synthesis of regional moisture-balance trends through history, allowing consideration of possible driving mechanisms, and suggestions for future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

© 2016. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license


  • Africa
  • Holocene
  • palaeoclimatology
  • Little Ice Age
  • Medieval Climate Anomaly.


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