Research Articles

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    High and medium resolution satellite imagery to evaluate late holocene human-environment interactions in arid lands: A case study from the Central Sahara.
    (MDPI, 2017-04) Biagetti, S.; Merlo, S.; Adam, E.; Lobo, A.; Conesa, F.C.; Knight, J.; Bekrani, H.; Crema, E.R.; Alcaina-Mateos, J.; Madella, M.
    We present preliminary results of an Earth observation approach for the study of past human occupation and landscape reconstruction in the Central Sahara. This region includes a variety of geomorphological features such as palaeo-oases, dried river beds, alluvial fans and upland plateaux whose geomorphological characteristics, in combination with climate changes, have influenced patterns of human dispersal and sociocultural activities during the late Holocene. In this paper, we discuss the use of medium- and high-resolution remotely sensed data for the mapping of anthropogenic features and paleo- and contemporary hydrology and vegetation. In the absence of field inspection in this inaccessible region, we use different remote sensing methods to first identify and classify archaeological features, and then explore the geomorphological factors that might have influenced their spatial distribution.
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    Issues of water quality in stormwater harvesting
    (Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2017-05) Knight, J.
    No abstract available
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    Wind speed characteristics and implications for: Wind power generation: Cape regions, South Africa
    (Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf), 2017-07) Grab, S.W.; Wright, M.A.
    Spatio-temporal dynamics of near-surface wind speeds were examined across the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape regions of South Africa. The regions assessed were geographically subdivided into three zones: coastal, coastal hinterland and inland. Wind speed data (10 m) were evaluated at monthly, seasonal, annual and zonal resolutions, with the aim to establish wind speed attributes and trends. Data from 19 weather stations with high-resolution wind records between 1995 and 2014 were evaluated. The majority of stations (79%) recorded a decrease in mean annual wind speed over the study period. The mean rate of decrease across all stations over the 20-year period equates to-1.25%, quantifying to an annual decrease of-0.002 m/s/year (-0.06% pa). The largest seasonal decline of-0.006 m/s/year (-0.15% pa) was recorded in summer. Statistically significant declines in mean annual wind speed are somewhat more pronounced for the coastal zone (-0.003 m/s/year,-0.08% pa) than over interior regions (-0.002 m/s/year,-0.06% pa) for the study period. The largest decrease (-0.08% pa) was recorded for the coastal zone, followed by the inland zone (-0.06% pa), equating to an annual reduction in available energy of 0.18% pa and 0.09% pa, respectively. When considering all stations over the study period, the mean inter-annual variability is 3.11%. Despite such decreases in wind speed, the variance identified in this study would not have posed any risk to power generation from wind across the assessed stations, based on the period 1995 to 2014.
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    Opposite polarities of ENSO drive distinct patterns of coral bleaching potentials in the southeast Indian Ocean
    (Nature Publishing Group, 2017) Zhang, N.; Feng, M.; Hendon, H.H.; Hobday, A.J.; Zinke, J.
    Episodic anomalously warm sea surface temperature (SST) extremes, or marine heatwaves (MHWs), amplify ocean warming effects and may lead to severe impacts on marine ecosystems. MHW-induced coral bleaching events have been observed frequently in recent decades in the southeast Indian Ocean (SEIO), a region traditionally regarded to have resilience to global warming. In this study, we assess the contribution of El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) to MHWs across the mostly understudied reefs in the SEIO. We find that in extended summer months, the MHWs at tropical and subtropical reefs (divided at ∼20°S) are driven by opposite ENSO polarities: MHWs are more likely to occur at the tropical reefs during eastern Pacific El Niño, driven by enhanced solar radiation and weaker Australian Monsoon, some likely alleviated by positive Indian Ocean Dipole events, and at the subtropical reefs during central Pacific La Niña, mainly caused by increased horizontal heat transport, and in some cases reinforced by local air-sea interactions. Madden-Julian Oscillations (MJO) also modulate the MHW occurrences. Projected future increases in ENSO and MJO intensity with greenhouse warming will enhance thermal stress across the SEIO. Implementing forecasting systems of MHWs can be used to anticipate future coral bleaching patterns and prepare management responses.
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    A multi-disciplinary review of late Quaternary palaeoclimates and environments for Lesotho
    (2016-07) Fitchett, J.M.; Grab, S.W; Bamford, M.K.; Mackay, A.W.
    Lesotho provides a unique context for palaeoclimatic research. The small country is entirely landlocked by South Africa, yet has considerable variation in topography, climate, and associated vegetation over an approximate east–west transect. The region has been of archaeological interest for over a century, and hosts many Early to Late Stone Age sites with occupation preceding 80 000 years before present. The eastern Lesotho highlands are of interest to periglacial and glacial geomorphologists because of their well-preserved relict landforms and contentious evidence for permafrost and niche glaciation during the late Quaternary. However, continuous proxy records for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions for Lesotho are scarce and hampered by a range of methodological shortfalls. These challenges include uncertain ages, poor sampling resolution, and proxies extracted from archaeological excavations for which there may be bias in selection. Inferences on palaeoclimates are thus based predominantly on archaeological and palaeogeomorphological evidence for discrete periods during the late Quaternary. This review paper presents a more detailed multidisciplinary synthesis of late Quaternary conditions in Lesotho. We simultaneously considered the varying data that contribute to the under-studied palaeoenvironmental record for southern Africa. The collective palaeoenvironmental data for eastern Lesotho were shown to be relatively contradictory, with considerable variations in contemporaneous palaeoclimatic conditions within the study area. We argue that although methodological challenges may contribute to this variation, the marked changes in topography result in contrasting late Quaternary palaeoenvironments. Such environments are characterised by similar contrasting microclimates and niche ecologies as are witnessed in the contemporary landscape. These spatial variations within a relatively small landlocked country are of importance in understanding broader southern African palaeoenvironmental change.