Middle East drought was region's worst in 900 years: NASA

JERUSALEM -- A recent, 14-year dry spell in the Middle East was the worst drought in the past 900 years, according to a new NASA study released this week.

See Full Article

NASA's researchers examined records of rings of trees in several Mediterranean countries to determine patterns of dry and wet years across a span of 900 years. They concluded that the years from 1998 to 2012 were drier than any other period, and that the drought was likely caused by humans.

The study's lead author Ben Cook said the range of extreme weather events in the eastern Mediterranean has varied widely in the past nine centuries, but the past two decades stand out.

"This recent drought falls outside the range of natural variability," he said. Drought has continued in parts of the Middle East, he added.

Cook is a climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City.

The researchers used records of tree rings in Northern Africa, Greece, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, and combined the data with records from Spain, southern France and Italy to examine patterns of drought across time in the region.

They studied rings of trees, both living and dead, that were sampled all over the region. Rings in the trunks of trees represent years. Thin rings indicate dry years; thick rings show years when water was abundant.

Cook said the research supported other studies indicating human causes of extreme climate events.

Last year, researchers at Columbia University and the University of California Santa Barbara found that drought triggered a collapse in agriculture in Syria and the migration of 1.5 million farmers to the cities, straining resources.

The water shortage was one of several contributing factors that had worsened the situation in Syria in the lead-up to the outbreak of that country's devastating civil war in 2011.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the NASA study is one of several worrying reports about unprecedented climate conditions.

Mann was not involved in NASA's study.

In an email to The Associated Press, Mann noted that tree rings "have their limitations and uncertainties," but said "the authors have done a reasonable job in assessing the uncertainties."



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • 10 million tonnes of fish catches dumped back into oceans: study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Fishing fleets dump about 10 per cent of the fish they catch back into the ocean in an "enormous waste" of low-value fish despite some progress in limiting discards in recent years, scientists said on Monday. Source
  • 5 rare Barbary lion cubs go on show at zoo in Germany

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BERLIN - Five rare Barbary lion cubs have been shown to the public for the first time at a zoo in southwestern Germany, delighting visitors as they clumsily plodded through their enclosure. The babies -- females Jumina and Lin and males Baz, Chaka and Sab -- were born two months ago, but could only be shown off at the Neuwied zoo Monday because their immune systems weren't strong enough earlier. Source
  • Ohio working to reduce harmful Lake Erie algae

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOLEDO, Ohio -- Ohio's environmental regulators who have pledged to drastically cut what's feeding the harmful algae in Lake Erie will consolidate oversight of the work to make sure money is being well spent and research isn't overlapping. Source
  • Fisheries officials trying to determine what caused death of six right whales

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONCTON, N.B. -- Marine mammal experts plan to meet today to discuss next steps as they try to figure out what caused the death of six North Atlantic right whales found floating in the Gulf of St. Source
  • New Zealand law student launches climate change court case

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A New Zealand law student is taking the government to court over its climate change policies in hopes of forcing it to set more ambitious targets. Sarah Thomson is challenging the government over commitments that include a pledge under the Paris climate accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Source
  • SpaceX launches 10 satellites from California air base

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- A SpaceX rocket carried 10 communications satellites into orbit from California on Sunday, two days after the company successfully launched a satellite from Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off through low-lying fog at 1:25 p.m. Source
  • Why this conservation group thinks soiled undies are a good thing

    Tech & Science CTV News
    One of the best things about summer is the fresh selection of fruits and vegetables available throughout the warm months. But a strange crop with far less nutritional value has a Canadian conservation group excited for the season. Source
  • Rising right whale death toll could be "catastrophic": marine biologist

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONCTON, N.B. - A marine mammal expert says the fate of critically endangered species could hang in the balance as the death toll of North Atlantic right whales found floating in the Gulf of St. Source
  • Giant sequoia move on schedule in Idaho, tree doing well

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BOISE, Idaho -- A massive Idaho tree that grew over more than a century from a seedling sent by a noted naturalist has been uprooted and is poised to travel about two blocks Sunday to a new location. Source
  • Medical marijuana woos four-legged fans

    Tech & Science CTV News
    It's early morning, just after breakfast, and six-year-old Cayley is wide awake, eagerly anticipating her daily dose of cannabis. The black labrador, tail wagging, laps up the liquid tincture owner Brett Hartmann squirts into her mouth, a remedy he uses morning and evening to help alleviate Cayley's anxiety. Source