August 25, 2016 / Modified jun 22, 2017 4:42 p.m.

Episode 42: What the Earth's Climate History Can Tell Us About Climate Change and Seasonal Rains

New findings provides evidence that climate shifts can happen suddenly.

The Horn of Africa has become increasingly drier in sync with the global and regional warming of the last century at a rate unprecedented in the last 2,000 years according to new research. Since there are no permanent lake basins and scarcely any trees in the region, Jessica Tierney and her colleagues took regional temperature and precipitation records from deep-sea sediment cores in the Gulf of Aden which show that twentieth-century drying in the area is unusual in the context of nearly 2,000 years of rainfall and that is linked with recent warming trends. Tierney has also explored the Sahara region which once enjoyed regular rainfall and was covered in vegetation before drying out some 5,000 years ago in just a century or two. That finding provides evidence that climate shifts can happen suddenly.


Jessica Tierney, Associate Professor at the U of A's Department of Geosciences
Tim Swindle, Ph. D, Director and Department Head of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

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