Current drought in Mongolia could have serious consequences
Climate was very much on Genghis Khan's side as he expanded his Mongol Empire across northeastern Asia.
View of the modern-day Orkhon Valley near Karakorum, the ancient Mongol capital. Credit: Amy Hessl
That link between Mongolia's climate and its human history echoes down the centuries, according to findings reported in this week's issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
But climate may no longer be the boon it was during the latter, wetter part of Genghis Khan's reign. The early years were marked by drought.
Mongolia's current drought conditions could have serious consequences for the Asia region's human and other inhabitants.
The discovery linking ancient and modern history hinges on wood. Trees provide an extensive climate record in their rings.
The tree rings' tales of ebbs and flows in water availability show that Genghis Khan took power during a severe drought, says Amy Hessl, a geographer at West Virginia University and co-author of the paper.
But, the scientists found, the rapid expansion of Genghis Khan's empire coincided with the wettest period in the region during the last millennium.
"Through a careful analysis of tree-ring records spanning eleven centuries, the researchers have provided valuable information about a period of great significance," says Tom Baerwald, a program director for the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) Program, which funded the research.
CNH is one of NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) programs. CNH is supported by NSF's Directorates for Geosciences; Biological Sciences; and Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences.
"The results also provide insights into the complex interactions of climate, vegetation and human activity in semi-arid regions today," Baerwald says.
Though political realities would also have played into Genghis Khan's power grab, the regional climate at the time appears to have supported his empire's expansion.
The climate provided literal horsepower as armies and their horses fed off the fertile, rain-fed land.
"Such a strong and unified center would have required a concentration of resources that only higher productivity could have sustained, in a land in which extensive pastoral production does not normally provide surplus resources," the paper states.
While the ramifications for past history are significant, so, too, are they for today's.
The scientists believe that human-caused warming may have exacerbated the current drought in central Mongolia, similar to the drought that coincided with Genghis Khan's initial rise to power.
"If future warming overwhelms increased precipitation, episodic 'heat droughts' and their social, economic and political consequences will likely become more common in Mongolia and Inner Asia," according to the paper.
Hessl co-authored the report with scientists Neil Pederson of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Nachin Baatarbileg of the National University of Mongolia, Kevin Anchukaitis of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Nicola Di Cosmo of the Institute for Advanced Study.
Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability NSF-Wide Investment (SEES): http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504707
NSF Publication: Discoveries in Sustainability: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2012/disco12001/disco12001.pdf
NSF News: National Science Foundation awards $19.4 million for research on coupled natural and human systems: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=129178&org=NSF&from=news
NSF Discovery Article: Summertime: Hot Time in the City: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=128204
NSF Discovery Article: Cooking Up Clean Air in Africa: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126403&org=NSF&from=news
NSF Discovery Article: Soundscapes: Studying Nature's Rhythms: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=126403&org=NSF&from=news
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!
How is climate change affecting fauna in the Arctic?
22.05.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
Sea level as a metronome of Earth's history
19.05.2017 | Université de Genève
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
16.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.05.2017 | Life Sciences
22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy