THE last deglaciation was interrupted by an abrupt cooling event, the Younger Dryas, at 11,000& ndash;10,000 yr BP (uncalibrated radiocarbon timescale)1. Originally recognized in climate records from northwest Europe, the Younger Dryas has now been identified in marine and ice-core records worldwide2& ndash;6. In the tropics, a broadly contemporaneous change in climate is recorded by decreases in water levels and increased salinity of lakes7& ndash;9,14, indicating a period of arid climate caused by a reduction in ocean-to-land moisture flux. The exact timing of these changes in relation to the Younger Dryas event in high-latitude records has remained unclear, however. Here we present climate records based on analyses of diatom assemblages, geochemistry and magnetic mineralogy of radiocarbon-dated sequences of laminated lake sediments from Lake Magadi in the East African rift. These records provide a detailed record of climate change in lowland equatorial Africa throughout the last deglaciation (12,800& ndash;10,000 14C yr BP). We find that lake-level and humidity maxima coincide with the most rapid phases of ice melting in the Northern Hemisphere, and that the climate changes, including the Younger Dryas event, were synchronous at low and high latitudes. Thus, the effects of abrupt climate change appear to be felt at both high and low latitudes without a significant time lag.