Changing perceptions

if the latest findings by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research are found to hold water, the various views on the desertification of the Sahara may soon be turned upside down.

In a research paper, published in the July 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, they concluded that changes in the Earth's orbit led to the formation of the desert. More importantly, scientists now argue that land use practices of humans, who lived and cultivated the Sahara, were not responsible for desertification. The researchers, headed by Martin Claussen, employed climber-2, a new research model for analysing data on climate changes that took place during the last several thousand years.

Using this model, scientists discovered that desertification of north Africa began abruptly 5,540 years ago (