Original Research

The Late Quaternary history of climate and vegetation in East and southern Africa

E. M. van Zinderen Bakker Sr
Bothalia | Vol 14, No 3/4 | a1181 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v14i3/4.1181 | © 1983 E. M. van Zinderen Bakker Sr | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 October 1983 | Published: 06 November 1983

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E. M. van Zinderen Bakker Sr, Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of the Orange Free State, South Africa

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In the vast region of East and southern Africa the alternating glacial and interglacial periods of the Quaternarv were characterized by considerable changes in temperature and precipitation. During the last glacial maximum the influence of the ITCZ was limited, while the circulation systems were strengthened. The ocean surface waters were cooler and the Benguela Current was activated. In the montane areas of East Africa and also in southern Africa the temperature dropped by about 6°C.

During this hypothermal period, rainfall on the east African plateau and mountains diminished. Summer precipitation could still penetrate the eastern half of southern Africa from the Indian Ocean, while the western half was arid to semi-arid. Cyclonic winter rain migrated further north beyond the latitude of the Orange River.

The consequences of these climatic changes during the last glacial maximum were that the woodlands of East Africa opened up. On the plateau of South Africa austro-afroalpine vegetation dominated. The south coastal plain was very windy and cold to temperate, while the Namib and Kalahari were respectively hyper-arid and semi-humid.

During hyperthermals the vegetation pattern resembled present-day conditions more closely.


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