Decadal-scale rainfall variability in Ethiopia recorded in an annually laminated, Holocene-age, stalagmite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • A Baker
  • A Asrat
  • MJ Leng
  • L Thomas
  • B Dong
  • P van Calsteren
  • C Bryant


An annually laminated, uranium-series dated, Holocene stalagmite from southeast Ethiopia has been analysed for growth rate and delta C-13 and delta O-18 variations at annual to biennial resolution, in order to provide the first long duration proxy record of decadal-scale rainfall variability in this climatically sensitive region. Our study site (10 degrees N) is climatically influenced by both summer (June-August) and spring (March-May) rainfall caused by the annual movement of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and modulated by large-scale anomalies in the atmospheric circulation and in ocean temperatures. Here we show that stalagmite growth, episodic throughout the last 7800 years, demonstrates decadal-scale (8-25 yr) variability in both growth rate and delta O-18. A hydrological model was employed and indicates that this decadal variability is due to variations in the relative amounts of rainfall in the two rain seasons. Our record, unique in its combination of length (a total of similar to 1000 years), annual chronology and high resolution delta O-18, shows for the first time that such decadal-scale variability in rainfall in this region has occurred through the Holocene, which implies persistent decadal-scale variability for the large-scale atmospheric and oceanic driving factors.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-836
Number of pages10
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010


  • Ethiopia, rainfall, speleothem, Holocene