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Climatic Change

, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 357–380 | Cite as

The climate of Namaqualand in the nineteenth century

  • Clare Kelso
  • Coleen VogelEmail author
Article

Abstract

Southern African climatic change research is hampered by a lack of long-term historical data sets. This paper aims to extend the historical climate record for southern Africa to the semi-arid area of Namaqualand in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. This is achieved through extensive archival research, making use of historical documentary sources such as missionary journals and letters, traveller’s writings and government reports and letters. References to precipitation and other climatic conditions have been extracted and categorised, providing a proxy precipitation data set for Namaqualand for the nineteenth century. Notwithstanding problems of data accuracy and interpretation the reconstruction enables the detection of severe and extreme periods. Measured meteorological data, available from the late 1870s, was compared to the data set derived from documentary sources in order to ascertain the accuracy of the data set and monthly rainfall data has been used to identify seasonal anomalies. Confidence ratings on derived dry and wet periods, where appropriate, have been assigned to each year. The study extends the geographical area of existing research and extracts the major periods of drought and climatic stress, from the growing body of historical climate research. The most widespread drought periods affecting the southern and eastern Cape, Namaqualand and the Kalahari were 1820–1821; 1825–1827; 1834; 1861–1862; 1874–1875; 1880–1883 and 1894–1896. Finally, a possible correspondence is suggested between some of the widespread droughts and the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Keywords

Confidence Rating Documentary Source Missionary Society Historical Climate Record Winter Rainfall Area 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental ManagementUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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