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J Hum Evol. 2009 Feb;56(2):139-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.09.004. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

Out of Africa and into an ice age: on the role of global climate change in the late Pleistocene migration of early modern humans out of Africa.

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School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, PO Box 3055, Victoria, BC, V8W 3P6, Canada.


The results from two climate model simulations are used to explore the relationship between North Atlantic sea surface temperatures and the development of African aridity around 100,000 years ago. Through the use of illustrative simulations with an Earth System Climate Model, it is shown that freshwater fluxes associated with ice sheet surges into the North Atlantic, known as Heinrich events, lead to the southward shift of the intertropical convergence zone over Africa. This, combined with the overall increased aridity in the cooler mean climate, leads to substantial changes in simulated African vegetation cover, particularly in the Sahel. We suggest that Heinrich events, which occurred episodically throughout the last glacial cycle, led to abrupt changes in climate that may have rendered large parts of North, East, and West Africa unsuitable for hominin occupation, thus compelling early Homo sapiens to migrate out of Africa.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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