Climatic information of Western Sahel (1535–1793 AD) in original documentary sources

Año Publicación:  2014
Responsable: V. Millán et al.
Journal, Volumen y páginas:
Climate of the Past Discussions, 10(5), 3877–3900


V. Millán & F. Sánchez-Rodrigo


The Sahel is the semi-arid transition zone between arid Sahara and humid tropical Africa, extending approximately 10–20° N from Mauritania in the West to Sudan in the East. The African continent, one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, is subject to frequent droughts and famine. One climate challenge research is to isolate those aspects of climate variability that are natural from those that are related to human influences. Therefore, the study of climatic conditions before mid-19th century, when anthropogenic influence was of minor importance, is very interesting. In this work the frequency of extreme events, such as droughts and floods, in Western Sahel from the 16th to 18th centuries is investigated using documentary data. Original manuscripts with historical chronicles from Walata and Nema (Mauritania), Timbuktu and Arawan (Mali), and Agadez (Niger) have been analyzed. Information on droughts, intense rainfall, storms and floods, as well as socioeconomic aspects (famines, pests, scarcity, prosperity) has been codified in an ordinal scale ranging from −2 (drought and famines) to +2 (floods) to obtain a numerical index of the annual rainfall in the region. Results show wet conditions in the 17th century, as well as dry conditions in the 18th century (interrupted by a short wet period in the 1730s decade).

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