The cold climate geomorphology of the Eastern Cape Drakensberg: A reevaluation of past climatic conditions during the last glacial cycle in Southern Africa
Southern Africa is located in a unique setting for investigating past cold climate geomorphology over glacial-interglacial timescales. It lies at the junction of three of the world's major oceans and is affected by subtropical and temperate circulation systems, therefore recording changes in Southern Hemisphere circulation patterns. Cold climate landforms are very sensitive to changes in climate and thus provide an opportunity to investigate past changes in this region. The proposed existence of glaciers in the high Eastern Cape Drakensberg mountains, together with possible rock glaciers, has led to the suggestion that temperatures in this region were as much as 10-17 °C lower than present. Such large temperature depressions are inconsistent with many other palaeoclimatic proxies in Southern Africa. This paper presents new field observations and cosmogenic nuclide exposure ages from putative cold climate landforms. We discuss alternative interpretations for the formation of the landforms and confirm that glaciers were absent in the Eastern Cape Drakensberg during the last glaciation. However, we find widespread evidence for periglacial activity down to an elevation of 1700 m asl, as illustrated by extensive solifluction deposits, blockstreams, and stone garlands. These periglacial deposits suggest that the climate was significantly colder ( 6 °C) during the Last Glacial Maximum, in keeping with other climate proxy records from the region, but not cold enough to initiate or sustain glaciers or rock glaciers.