Collaborative Research: A Combined Proxy and Model Investigation of Late Holocene Paleoclimate in the Horn of Africa
This project seeks to investigate the mechanisms causing drought events in the Horn of Africa over the last 4,500 years using a combination of proxy measurements and modeling. Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory will collaborate to generate the first known paleoclimate record for the region. The project will use proxy data from a sediment core collected in the Gulf of Aden to determine regional sea surface temperatures (Mg/Ca, TEX86) and hydroclimate (carbon and hydrogen isotopes from plant leaf waxes) at a resolution of ~20 years. The regional sea surface temperature data will be used to drive Community Earth System Model (CESM) simulations of key drought and pluvial events. Model output will be compared with the proxy hydroclimate record to assess the Horn of Africa's sensitivity to regional SSTs versus more remote (global) climate drivers. Drought history in the Horn of Africa is closely tied to political instability, making its population particularly vulnerable to climate change. The investigators will engage policy makers focused on this issue through a workshop held in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program. The project will support three early-career researchers, two of which are female with no prior NSF support, as well as training of an undergraduate student.