Rainfall variability in southeast and west-central Africa during the Little Ice Age: do documentary and proxy records agree?

Hannaford, Matthew and Beck, Kristen (2021) Rainfall variability in southeast and west-central Africa during the Little Ice Age: do documentary and proxy records agree? Climatic Change, 168 (11). ISSN 0165-0009

Full content URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-021-03217-7

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Rainfall variability in southeast and west-central Africa during the Little Ice Age: do documentary and proxy records agree?
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Abstract

Understanding of long-term climatic change prior to instrumental records necessitates reconstructions
from documentary and palaeoclimate archives. In southern Africa, documentaryderived
chronologies of nineteenth century rainfall variability and palaeoclimate records have
permitted new insights into rainfall variability over past centuries. Rarely considered, however, is
the climatic information within early colonial documentary records that emerge from the late
fifteenth century onwards. This paper examines evidence for (multi-)seasonal dry andwet events
within these earlier written records (c. 1550–1830 CE) from southeast Africa (Mozambique) and
west-central Africa (Angola) in conjunction with palaeoclimate records from multiple proxies.
Specifically, it aims to understand whether these sources agree in their signals of rainfall
variability over a 280-year period covering the ‘main phase’ Little Ice Age (LIA) in southern
Africa. The two source types generally, but do not always, show agreement within the two
regions. This appears to reflect both the nature of rainfall variability and the context behind
documentary recording. Both source types indicate that southeast and west-central Africa were
distinct regions of rainfall variability over seasonal and longer timescales during the LIA, with
southeast Africa being generally drier and west-central Africa generally wetter. However, the documentary records reveal considerable variability within these mean state climatic conditions, with multi-year droughts a recurrent feature in both regions. An analysis of long-term rainfall links with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in southeast Africa suggests a complex and possibly non-stationary relationship. Overall, early colonial records provide valuable information for constraining hydroclimate variability where palaeoclimate records remain sparse.

Keywords:Southern Africa, Rainfall variability, Little Ice Age, documentary reconstruction, palaeoclimate
Subjects:F Physical Sciences > F890 Geographical and Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified
F Physical Sciences > F860 Climatology
F Physical Sciences > F643 Quaternary studies
Divisions:College of Science > School of Geography
ID Code:46850
Deposited On:07 Oct 2021 11:57

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