Changes in the cyclicity and variability of the eastern African paleoclimate over the last 620 kyrs

Walter Duesing, Stefanie Kaboth-Bahr, Asfawossen Asrat, Andrew S. Cohen, Verena Foerster, Henry F. Lamb, Frank Schaebitz, Martin H. Trauth, Finn Viehberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

There is ongoing debate concerning whether or not changes in the eastern African climate, both long-term and short-term, affected the evolution, dispersal, cultural development, and technological innovations of Homo sapiens – and if so, in what way. We present the wavelet spectral analysis results of a ∼620 kyr record of environmental change from the Chew Bahir (CHB) basin in the southern Ethiopian rift, approximately 120 km from the Omo-Kibish fossil locality, which boasts one of the oldest documented appearances of H. sapiens. Our results indicate that the long-term wet-dry changes in the eastern African climate recorded in the CHB sediments were mainly caused by changes in orbital eccentricity, with relatively dry but variable climates occurring during eccentricity minima within the 400 kyr eccentricity cycle, and increased precipitation, interspersed with distinctly dryer phases associated with orbital precession, during eccentricity maxima. Such insolation-forced precipitation changes would have affected the habitat of H. sapiens in the region; the transition from Acheulean to Middle Stone Age (MSA) documented in the Olorgesailie Basin of southern Kenya coincides with a distinct eccentricity minimum with reduced precipitation and repeated abrupt climatic transitions. In contrast, at the time of the subsequent, first documented occurrence of H. sapiens in eastern Africa the climate was distinctly wetter and less variable.

Keywords

  • African climate
  • Orbital forcing
  • Principle component analysis
  • Time series analysis
  • Wavelet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology

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