Abrupt climate changes in the past

Abrupt climate changes to drier conditions impacted the fall of ancient civilisations in the fertile crescent

New research reveals that some of the earliest civilisations in the Middle East and the Fertile Crescent may have been affected by abrupt climate change. Abrupt climate changes occur in the span of years to decades.

A team of international scientists led by researchers from the University of Miami have found that during the first half of the last interglacial period known as the Holocene epoch, which began about 12,000 years ago and continues today, the Middle East most likely experienced wetter conditions in comparison with the last 6,000 years, when the conditions were drier and dustier.

The Fertile Crescent, a region in west Asia that extends from Iran and the Arabian Peninsula to the eastern Mediterranean Sea and northern Egypt is one of the most climatically dynamic regions in the world and is widely considered the birthplace of early human civilisations. The research team found that transitions in several major civilisations across this region, as evidenced by the available historical and archaeological records, coincided with episodes of high atmospheric dust. Higher fluxes of dust are attributed to drier conditions across the region over the last 5,000 years.

Credit: Arash Sharifi
Climate variability during the past 5000 years is shown in the diagram above. The vertical orange bands denote periods of dry and dusty conditions, which correlate to historical records of drought and famine. Transitions between ruling dynasties (grey arrows) in Iran and North Mesopotamia coincides with the episodes of dry and dusty condition in the region.


Out of the ashes into the fire

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