Glacial landscapes: Past climate and glaciation of the Drakensberg Mountains, southern Africa
- Last Glacial Maximum
- Past climate reconstruction
Fieldwork for this project took place in September 2011 and the research is ongoing. Landform mapping and sampling was undertaken in the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa.
This research project looks at evidence for the presence of glaciers in the Drakensberg Mountains in the past; both to better understand the glacial history of the area and to infer the past climate conditions that must have existed to allow glaciers to form here. The research also compares the evidence from the Drakensberg Mountains with evidence for past changes in ocean currents and sea surface temperatures off the coast of South Africa to help better understand the links between changes in ocean circulation and the climate of southern Africa.
Prior to fieldwork, satellite images and aerial photos were examined to identify glacial and periglacial landforms. Landforms were then mapped in the field using a Global Positioning System (GPS) to ‘ground truth’ the inferences made from studying the ‘remotely sensed’ images. Sections through the landforms were logged and the sedimentary properties recorded (for example, clast size and orientation). Landforms were also sampled for surface exposure dating (to determine the age of certain glacial and periglacial landforms). Once glacial landforms have been identified and dated, another step involves inputting field mapping data into a Geographical Information System (GIS) in order to estimate the dimensions of a former glacier.
- To improve knowledge of where glaciers formed in the Drakensberg, and when they existed; and to determine whether certain landforms are glacial or periglacial in origin
- To use this knowledge to infer what the climate was like in the High Drakensberg in the past, and to investigate how past climate changes in this region related to past changes in the strength of the Agulhas Current off the coast of southern Africa
Lesson one »
Lesson two »
Lesson three »
Follow up »
Dr Stephanie Mills is a lecturer in Physical Geography at Kingston University London. Dr Timothy Barrows is a Senior lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Exeter. They received the Peter Fleming Award in 2011 to support their work on the ice age climate of the Drakensberg Mountains, southern Africa.