Advertisement

Climatic Change

, Volume 129, Issue 1–2, pp 131–143 | Cite as

Practising historical climatology in West Africa: a climatic periodisation 1750–1800

  • Stefan NorrgårdEmail author
Article

Abstract

This paper presents the first interdecadal and interannual periodisation of the climate in West Africa between 1750 and 1800. The climatic synthesis is founded on previously unexploited British documents written at Cape Coast Castle, Cape Coast, Ghana and travel journals, which are combined with previous research on the Sahel. By combining historical evidence with the most recently identified rainfall patterns in the Sahel and the Guinea coast, the climatic periodisation distinguishes between wetter and drier periods. The results show that there was great interannual and interdecadal variability in the West African rainfall regime in the 18th century. The historical evidence suggests that the climate in the Sahel and the Guinea coastal interior alternated between five wet and dry periods, whereas the coastal dry zone alternated between three wet and dry periods. The most pronounced changes in the climate are found in the 1780s and 1790s. The Guinea coastal interior and the Sahel experienced a wet period in the 1780s and a dry period in the 1790s, whereas the coastal dry zone was drier in the 1780s and wetter in the 1790s. The investigation shows that the secondary rainy season on the Gold coast was weak or non-existent.

Keywords

Rainy Season Heavy Rain Rainfall Variability Wetness Index Slave Trade 
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.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was conducted as part of the project “Entangled Spaces - Global Connections and Local Articulations: Portals of Early Modern Globalization and Creolization during the Era of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade” funded by the Finnish Academy. The author also acknowledges Svenska Litteratursällskapet for funding this research.

References

  1. Acheampong PK (1982) Rainfall anomaly along the coast of Ghana—its nature and causes. Geo Ann 64:199–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashton TS (ed) (1950) Letters of a West African trader. Edward Grace 1767–70. LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Bakun A (1978) Guinea current upwelling. Nature 271:147–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barry B (1998) Senegambia and the Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Bell WT, Ogilvie AEJ (1978) Weather compilations as a source of data for the reconstruction of European climate during the Medieval Period. Clim Chang 1:331–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brázdil R et al (2005) Historical climatology in Europe—state of the art. Clim Chang 70:363–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brázdil R et al (2010) European climate of the past 500 years: new challenges for historical climatology. Clim Chang 101:7–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brooks GE (1986) A provisional historical schema for Western Africa based on seven climate periods. Cah d’Études Afr 26:43–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cissoko SM (1968) Famines et épidemes á Tombouctoo et dans la Boucle du Niger du XVIe au XVIIIe siéclé’. Bulletin de l’Institut fondamental d’Afrique Nonire 30:806–821Google Scholar
  10. Collins K et al (1997) Malaria-related beliefs and behaviour in southern Ghana: implication for treatment, prevention and control. Trop Med Int Health 2:488–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Curtin PD (1964) The image of Africa: British ideas and action, 1780–1850. Univ. Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  12. Curtin PD (1975) Economic change in precolonial Africa: Senegambia in the era of the slave trade. Univ. Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  13. Dalzel A (1793) The history of Dahomy. LondonGoogle Scholar
  14. Devereux S (1993) Theories on famine. New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Edkins J (2008) Whose hunger? Concepts of famine, practices of aid. Univ. of Minnesota, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  16. Ingram MJ, Underhill DJ, Farmer G (1985) The use of documentary sources for the study of past climates. In: Wigley TML, Ingram MJ, Farmer G (eds) Climate and history. Studies in past climates and their impact on man. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, pp 180–213Google Scholar
  17. Janicot S (1992) Spatiotemporal variability of West African rainfall. Part II: associated surface and airmass characteristics. J Clim 5:499–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. John A (1821) Sketches taken during ten voyages to Africa between the years 1786 and 1800. LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. Kea R (1982) Settlements, trade and polities in the seventeenth-century gold coast. Johns Hopkins, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  20. Lovejoy PE (2000) Transformations in slavery. A history of slavery in Africa, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  21. Maley J (1976) Les variations du lac Tchad depuis un millenaire: consequences paléoclimatiques. Palaeoecol Afr 9:44–47Google Scholar
  22. Maley J (1981) Etudes palynologiques dans le Bassin du Tchad et paleoclimatology de l’Afrique nord tropicale de 30 000 ans á l’époque actuelle’ Travaux et docements de l’ORSTOM Google Scholar
  23. McCann JC (1999) Causation and climate in African history. Int J Afr Hist Stud 32:261–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nash DJ, Adamson GCD (2014) Recent advances in the historical climatology of the tropics and subtropics. BAMS 95:131–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nguyean H, Thorncroft CD, Zhang C (2011) Guinean coastal rainfall of the West African monsoon. Q J R Meteorol Soc 37:1828–1840CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nicholson SE (1976) A climatic chronology for Africa: synthesis of geological, historical, and meteorological information and data. Dissertation, University of WisconsinGoogle Scholar
  27. Nicholson SE (2008) The intensity, location and structure of the tropical rainbelt over West Africa as factors in interannual variability. Int J Climatol 28:1775–1785CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nicholson SE (2009) A revised picture of the structure of the “monsoon” and land ITCZ over West Africa. Clim Dyn 32:1153–1171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nicholson SE (2011) Dryland climatology. Cambridge Univ. Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nicholson SE, Grist JP (2001) A conceptual model for understanding rainfall variability in the West African Sahel on interannual and interdecadal timescales. Int J Climatol 21:1733–1754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Nicholson SE, Klotter D, Dezfuli AK (2012a) Spatial reconstruction of semi-quantitative precipitation fields over Africa during the nineteenth century from documentary evidence and gauge data. Quat Res 78:13–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nicholson SE, Dezfuli AK, Klotter D (2012b) A two-century precipitation dataset for the continent of Africa. BAMS 93:1219–1231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nicholson SE et al (2013) Temperature variability over Africa during the last 2000 years. The Holocene 23:1085–1094CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nicolini G et al (2010) Wood-growth zones in Acacia Seyal Delile in the Keita Valley, Niger: is there any climatic signal? J Arid Environ 74:355–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nihcolson SE (1979) The methodology of historical climate reconstructions and its application to Africa. J Afr Hist 20:31–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nørregård G (1966) Danish settlements in West Africa 1658–1850. Boston University Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  37. Norrgård S (2013) A new climatic periodisation of the gold and Guinea Coasts in West Africa, 1750–1798. Dissertation, Åbo Akademi UniversityGoogle Scholar
  38. Norris R (1789) Memoirs of the reign of Bossa Ahádee, King of Dahomy, an inland country of Guiney. LondonGoogle Scholar
  39. Ogilvie AEJ (2010) Historical climatology, Climatic Change, and implications for climate science in the twenty first century. Clim Chang 100:33–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Owosu K, Waylen P (2009) Trends in spatio-temporal variability in annual rainfall in Ghana (1951–2000). Weather 64:115–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Park M (1799) Travels in the interior Districts of Africa, 3rd edn. LondonGoogle Scholar
  42. Rømer, LF (1760) A reliable account of the coast of Guinea, ed. by Selena Axelrod Winsnes in 2000 and published by Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  43. Schöngart J et al (2006) Climate-growth relationships of tropical tree species in West Africa and their potential for climate reconstruction. Global Change Biol 12:1139–1150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shanahan TM et al (2009) Atlantic forcing of persistent drought in West Africa. Science 324:377–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Talbot M, Delibrias G (1977) Holocene variations in the level of lake Bosumtwi, Ghana. Nature 268:722–724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. TAST, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (www.slavevoyages.org)
  47. The National Archives at Kew, London. Catalogue T70, sub catalogues 29–33, and 1468Google Scholar
  48. Vansina J (1985) Oral tradition as history. University of Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  49. Vershuren D (2004) Decadal and century-scale climate variability in tropical Africa during the past 2000 years. In: Battarbee RW, Gasse F, Stickley C (eds) Past climate variability through Europe and Africa. Springer, Dodrecht, pp 139–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wagner RG, Da Silva A (1994) Surface conditions associated with anomolous rainfall in the Guinea Coastal Region. Int J Climatol 14:179–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Webb JLA Jr. (1995) Desert frontier. Ecological and economic change along the Western Sahel. MadisonGoogle Scholar
  52. Weiss H (2008) Västafrikanska krönikor som källor för historisk ekologisk-klimatologisk forskning om 1700-talets samhällskris. Möjligheter och begränsningar. Historisk Tidskrift Finland 93:46–50Google Scholar
  53. Winterbottom T (1803) An account of the native Africans in the neighbourhood up Sierra Leone LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Åbo Akademi UniversityTurkuFinland

Personalised recommendations