The Japan Times, October 18, 1997

Sahara once had grasslands, researchers say


WASHINGTON (Reuters) Africa's Sahara desert used to get about 25 percent more rain than it does today and many more parts of it were covered with lush grassland, climate researchers reported Thursday.
They said their model of the weather 6,000 years ago was the most accurate yet and could help predict how global warming will change the planet's weather in the future.
Writing in the journal Science, John Kutzbach and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin's Center for Climatic Research said changes in the Earth's orbit thousands of years ago meant more sunshine hit the oceans, heating up sea temperatures.
This had effects all over the world including an increase in the monsoons that brought rain to North Africa.
"First we found the changed orbit of the earth enhanced the monsoons," Kutzbach said.
"Second we found that as the monsoons strengthened, the grasslands expanded northward into areas that are now desert."