Greenhouse gases likely had a role in the rainfall patterns and overall climate of Africa. Scientists have finally connected some of the dots with research that begins to explain why the African Humid Period – which was an intense increase in humidity and rainfall throughout parts of Africa – happened and why it was likely linked to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The period lasted 10,000 years and followed the last ice age, as well as a dry spell that was far extended beyond any typical length.
The study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy is significant because it links the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to evolving and changing climate and weather patterns. The scientist found that carbon dioxide and several other greenhouse gases likely had a harsh impact on the level of rainfall that particular regions of Africa experienced throughout that 10,000 year period.
“This study is important not only because it explains a long-standing puzzle, but it helps to validate model predictions of how rising greenhouse gas concentrations might change rainfall patterns in highly populated and vulnerable part of the world,” said Peter Clark who is a Paleoclimatologist at Oregon State University and was the co-author of this particular study.
Thanks to computer simulations and analysis of data scientists were able to understand the data and make the connection between greenhouse gases and the rainfall that followed. The dry spell in Africa lasted roughly 7,000 years, and up until 14,700 years ago when the rainfall spontaneously increased – scientists have often wondered what sparked this change. This was the point when deserts turned into grasslands, and the landscape that existed during the African Humid Period became famous. The scientists noted that with the increased level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere coupled with the fact that the ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean forced warmer waters to the south – these factors ultimately contributed greatest to changing the climate – and subsequently the rainfall patterns in different parts of Africa.
Moving forward this is something scientists want to ensure that they are able to continue keeping tabs on as they move forward due to the overall impact that greenhouse gases are already having on the climate globally – to ensure any potential future damage is mitigated as much as possible from the human end since now scientists have more concrete evidence that supports the overall change that greenhouse gases have on the climate.