Hamish Couper

Hamish Couper

Postgraduate

The presently hyper-arid Saharan Desert stretching across North Africa is a vitally important part of the global climate system. Understanding climate dynamics and future climate change there is however difficult due to a lack of instrumental and high-resolution climate data from the region. This project uses speleothems (cave deposits), specifically stalagmites, as paleoclimate archives (i.e. the study of climate change back in time) to infer information about past climate change due to the nature of their growth in the cave environment. Stalagmites require water to grow and so just their presence in presently hyper-arid regions such as the Sahara indicates a wetter past. This project uses stalagmites to show that North Africa was once a much wetter environment and constrains the timing and causes of such periods to improve our understanding of the controls on climate dynamics there. By understanding past climate change we can apply that knowledge to how climate may alter in the future.