What NASA Called Mideast’s Worst Drought In 900 Years Spurred Syrian War – Headlines & Global News

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What NASA Called Mideast’s Worst Drought In 900 Years Spurred Syrian War

By Catherine Arnold c.arnold@hngn.com | Mar 02, 2016 02:41 PM EST


While a recent study found that the Eastern Mediterranean’s recent and severe drought was the region’s worst in 900 years, it is worth noting that that drought also had a strong role in starting the current Syrian war. 

Just to back up for a second: Things were not simply a bit dry on the Mediterranean in recent years. In the region that makes up Jordan, Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Turkey, which is known as the eastern Mediterranean Levant region, what might have been the worst drought in 900 years played out from 1998 to 2012.

In that research, a team examined tree ring research to build a time model of the area’s drought history, to learn when water was and was not available to the trees. Thick rings indicate times of plentiful water, and more slender rings show the stress the tree was under without sufficient water.

The scientists also found patterns in the geographic occurrences of drought, giving an indication of underlying causes. Going forward with this new data on the natural variation in the Mediterranean region of drought occurrences, scientists will be able to mark the difference between regular droughts and those that were heightened by human-caused climate warming. This study is also part of NASA’s ongoing research to make computer models better at showing climate now and climate future.

One part of the tree-ring information in the study is called the Old World Drought Atlas. In the scientists’ research, they sampled living and dead tree rings, and they looked at existing records of tree-rings from all over the region.

All that said, it’s also important to note that the West – as in North America and the United States – are usually experiencing drought when the eastern Mediterranean is also in drought, said Kevin Anchukaitis, study co-author. “Both for modern society and certainly ancient civilizations, it means that if one region was suffering the consequences of the drought, those conditions are likely to exist throughout the Mediterranean basin. It’s not necessarily possible to rely on finding better climate conditions in one region than another, so you have the potential for large-scale disruption of food systems as well as potential conflict over water resources.”

Showing 900 years worth of variability in droughts in the Eastern Mediterranean will beef up climate models used to show projected drought risk in the next 100 years, Kushnir said.

As for the war in Syria, Richard Seager, a researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Observatory, co-authored a 2015 study about both the drought and the war called “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought.” He said that the tree-ring study helps support earlier work.

“[The study] truly backs up our contention… that the Syria drought was unusual and influenced by human-driven climate change. As such, it places more confidence in model projections that drying will continue and intensify across Middle East in coming decades and, yes, cause more trouble in a water scarce area,” Seager noted.

The findings were accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

What NASA Called Mideast’s Worst Drought In 900 Years Spurred Syrian War – Headlines & Global News}