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Lake Malawi Drilling Project


Lake Malawi MapThe top scientific objective of the project was to obtain a continuous, high-resolution (annual-decadal) record of past climates in the continental tropics over the past ~800 kyr. Other primary scientific objectives of the drilling program intersect several fields, including extensional basin evolution and neotectonics, evolutionary biology, and the environmental background to human origins.

The proposed project is an integrated scientific drilling campaign and analytical laboratory effort. Lake Malawi has long been recognized as an outstanding laboratory and archive for the study of tropical paleoclimatology, extensional tectonics, and evolutionary biology. Along with Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi holds the promise of a high-resolution paleoclimate record of unparalleled antiquity in the continental tropics. The critical role of the tropics in driving global circulation is widely recognized, but the climatic linkage between tropical Africa and the high latitudes at decadal-centennial through orbital timescales, has yet to be established.

The key Lake Malawi Drilling Project objectives are:  

    • Determine if tropical African climate responded to changes in low-latitude precessional insolation (23-19 kyr) or to high-latitude ice volume (100 kyr and 41 kyr) forcing.
    • Assess the phasing of lake level changes in Lake Malawi in the last half of the Pleistocene.
    • Determine from the high-resolution Lake Malawi drill core records if high-frequency, climate variations are superimposed on glacial-interglacial timescale variations.
    • Establish how interannual African climate variability has changed in association with longer-term climate variations.
    • Determine the long-term evolution of tropical East African climate.

(Figure ©: C.A. Scholz)





Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, East African Rift Valley, Lake Malawi



12° 0' 9'' S, 34° 6' 45'' E (Please scroll down to end of page for more information.)


Project Start and End
  • Begin of drilling February 2005
  • End of drilling March 2005


Programs and Funding


Principal Investigators
  • Thomas C. Johnson, University of Minnesota at Duluth, Large Lakes Observatory
  • Christopher A. Scholz, Syracuse University, Department of Earth Sciences
  • John William King, University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography
  • Michael Richard Talbot (?), University of Bergen, Geological Institute
  • Andrew S. Cohen, University of Arizona, Department of Earth Science
  • Leonard S.N. Kalindekafe, Ministry of Natural Resources, Geological Survey Department of Malawi
  • Eric Onyango Odada, University of Nairobi, IDEAL Office, Department of Geology
  • Michael B. Dolozi, University of Malawi, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Chancellor College


Partners and Contractors



Africa, Climate Change, Global Environment, ICDP-2000/06, Lake Drilling, MALAWI, Mozambique, Paleoclimatology, Rift Zones, Tanzania


Current State





    Google Earth/Maps