An international team of scientists led by Curt Stager of Paul Smith's College, New York, has compiled four dozen paleoclimate records from sediment cores in Lake Tanganyika and other locations in Africa.
The records show that one of the most widespread and intense droughts of the last 50,000 years or more struck Africa and Southern Asia 17,000 to 16,000 years ago.
Between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago, large amounts of ice and meltwater entered the North Atlantic Ocean, causing regional cooling but also major drought in the tropics, says Paul Filmer, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research along with NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences and its Division of Ocean Sciences.
"The height of this time period coincided with one of the most extreme megadroughts of the last 50,000 years in the Afro-Asian monsoon region with potentially serious consequences for the Paleolithic humans that lived there at the time," says Filmer.
The "H1 megadrought," as it's known, was one of the most severe climate trials ever faced by anatomically modern humans.
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