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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-95
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2019-95
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 24 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 24 Sep 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).

“Everything is scorched by the burning sun”: Missionary perspectives and experiences of 19th and early 20th century droughts in semi-arid central Namibia

Stefan Grab1 and Tizian Zumthurm2,3 Stefan Grab and Tizian Zumthurm
  • 1School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • 2Institute of the History of Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Centre for African Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland

Abstract. Limited research has focussed on historical droughts during the pre-instrumental weather-recording period in semi-arid to arid human-inhabited environments. Here we describe the unique nature of droughts over semi-arid central Namibia (southern Africa) between 1850 and 1920. More particularly, our intention is to establish temporal shifts of influence and impact that historical droughts had on society and the environment during this period. This is achived through scrutinizing documentary records sourced from a variety of archives and libraries. The primary source of information comes from misssonary diaries, letters and reports. These missionaries were based at a variety of stations across the central Namibian region and thus collectively provide insight to sub-regional (or site specific) differences in hydro-meteorological conditions, and drought impacts and responses. Earliest instrumental rainfall records (1891–1913) from several missionary stations or settlements are used to quantify hydro-meteorological conditions and compare with documentary sources. The work demonstrates strong-sub-regional contrasts in drought conditions during some given drought events and the dire implications of failed rain seasons, the consequences of which lasted many months to several years. The paper advocates that human experience and associated reporting of drought events depends strongly on social, environmental, spatial and societal developmental situations and perspectives. To this end, the reported experiences, impacts and responses to drought over this 70 year period portray both common and changeable attributes through time.

Stefan Grab and Tizian Zumthurm
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Status: open (until 19 Nov 2019)
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Stefan Grab and Tizian Zumthurm
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Short summary
Here we describe the unique nature of droughts over semi-arid central Namibia (southern Africa) between 1850 and 1920. We establish temporal shifts of influence and impact that historical droughts had on society and the environment during this period. The paper demonstrates and advocates that human experience and associated reporting of drought events depends strongly on social, environmental, spatial and societal developmental situations and perspectives.
Here we describe the unique nature of droughts over semi-arid central Namibia (southern Africa)...
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