A Multi-Century History of Drought and Wetter Conditions in Africa

  • Sharon E. Nicholson


This chapter reviews historical evidence of drought and wet conditions for regions of Africa. Africa contains the world’s largest expanse of arid and semi-arid land. Its people have contended with its harsh conditions over millennia, developing a close relationship with the environment and climate. Droughts cause famine, economic hardship, mass migration, and death. Extraordinary rains cause dwellings to collapse, flood low-lying areas, and prevent travel and commerce. Historical references allow for the reconstruction of African climates over several centuries. In most cases, absolute certainty cannot be established. However, “convergence of evidence” from numerous sources is used to create a chronology of the most likely conditions that prevailed. From 1800 enough information was available to allow for the development of semi-quantitative annual records for the whole continent.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon E. Nicholson
    • 1
  1. 1.Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric SciencesFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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