West African Monsoon Variability from a High-Resolution Paleolimnological Record (Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana)
AuthorShanahan, Timothy Michael
AdvisorOverpeck, Jonathan T.
Committee ChairOverpeck, Jonathan T.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractInstrumental and observational records of climate in West Africa suggest that this region may be susceptible to abrupt, decades-long drought events, with potentially catastrophic impacts for the people living in this region. However, because of the dearth of long, continuous and high quality climate records from sub-Saharan Africa, little is known about the long-term frequency and persistence of drought events in this region. It is also unclear whether observed 20th century droughts are natural or due to human impacts. In the present study, we use several complementary approaches to develop a high-resolution record of paleoclimatic changes in West Africa from the geological record preserved at Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana.Our results suggest that West Africa has undergone significant hydrologic variations over the last ca. 10,000 years. The dominant influence on hydrologic changes over this interval was changes in northern hemisphere summer insolation and the associated feedback processes acting in the oceans and on land. This led to a more northerly position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and increased precipitation during the early to mid-Holocene. In the late Holocene, a second increase in precipitation occurred along the Guinea coast as a result of the southward migration of the ITCZ from its northern position. This maximum was followed by an abrupt decrease in precipitation at ca. 2.5-3 kyr.The West African monsoon also varies on timescales from millennia to decades. Millennial and century-scale variations appear to be partly paced by changes in solar irradiance, either directly or indirectly. On decadal timescales, variability appears to be dominated by changes in Atlantic sea surface temperatures. The dominant mode is a ca. 40 year oscillation, which in strongly coherent and in phase with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). It is unclear from this study, however, if drought conditions over the last century are related to this multidecadal oscillation, or if they are forced by anthropogenic changes.