A new paper by Nadine Berner, myself, and Matthias Holschneider shows a two-step transition in African climate at (2.35-2.10) Ma and (1.70-1.50) Ma associated with the reorganization of the Walker Circulation.
During the last 5 Ma the Earth’s ocean-atmosphere system passed through several major transitions, many of which are discussed as possible triggers for human evolution. A classic in this context is the possible influence of the closure of the Panama Strait, the intensification of Northern Hemisphere Glaciation, a stepwise increase in aridity in Africa, and the first appearance of the genus Homo about 2.5–2.7 Ma ago. Apart from the fact that the correlation between these events does not necessarily imply causality, many attempts to establish a relationship between climate and evolution fail due to the challenge of precisely localizing an a priori unknown number of changes potentially underlying complex climate records. The kernel-based Bayesian inference approach applied here allows inferring the loca- tion, generic shape, and temporal scale of multiple transitions in established records of Plio-Pleistocene African climate. By defining a transparent probabilistic analysis strategy, we are able to identify conjoint changes occurring across the investigated terrigenous dust records from Ocean Drilling Programme (ODP) sites in the Atlantic Ocean (ODP 659), Arabian (ODP 721/722) and Mediterranean Sea (ODP 967). The study indicates a two-step transition in the African climate proxy records at (2.35–2.10) Ma and (1.70–1.50) Ma, that may be associated with the reorganization of the Hadley-Walker Circulation.
Berner, N., Trauth, M.H., Holschneider, M. (2022) Bayesian inference about Plio-Pleistocene climate transitions in Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2021.107287