Holocene climate change in southernmost South Africa: Rock hyrax middens record shifts in the southern westerlies

Brian M Chase, Arnoud Boom, Andrew S. Carr, Michael E. Meadows, Paula J. Reimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


South Africa's southern coastal margin is recognised as being a highly dynamic climatic region that plays a critical role in both regional and global atmospheric and oceanic circulation dynamics. Our understanding of the past dynamics of this system, however, has been limited by the number and nature of datasets available that can be used to infer changes in key climatic parameters in the region. In this paper we present new high resolution δ13C and δ15N data from two independently dated rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) middens from Seweweekspoort in South Africa's Groot Swartberg mountains. These data provide information regarding both past vegetation and hydroclimatic change, and allow a regional integration of available data that explore the long-term dynamics of mid-latitude circulation systems in the African sector of the Southern Hemisphere. Combined, a negative relationship is apparent between temperature and humidity in this area of the southern Cape, and these changes can for the first time be clearly linked to variations in Antarctic sea-ice extent and shifts in the southern westerly storm track. This dynamic is particularly evident between 5 and 7calkBP, when a reduction in sea-ice extent and a southward shift of the westerlies are manifested regionally by increased temperatures and a phase of marked aridity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-205
Number of pages7
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date06 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2013


  • Holocene
  • Palaeoclimatology
  • Quaternary
  • Rock hyrax midden
  • South Africa
  • Stable isotopes
  • Westerlies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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