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!
Two satellites see newborn Tropical Storm Jimena consolidating
28.08.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
NASA's GPM satellite analyzes Tropical Storm Erika's rainfall
28.08.2015 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
A University of Oklahoma astrophysicist and his Chinese collaborator have found two supermassive black holes in Markarian 231, the nearest quasar to Earth, using observations from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
The discovery of two supermassive black holes--one larger one and a second, smaller one--are evidence of a binary black hole and suggests that supermassive...
A team of European researchers have developed a model to simulate the impact of tsunamis generated by earthquakes and applied it to the Eastern Mediterranean. The results show how tsunami waves could hit and inundate coastal areas in southern Italy and Greece. The study is published today (27 August) in Ocean Science, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Though not as frequent as in the Pacific and Indian oceans, tsunamis also occur in the Mediterranean, mainly due to earthquakes generated when the African...
In mountainous regions earthquakes often cause strong landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy rain. However, after an initial increase, the frequency of these mass wasting events, often enormous and dangerous, declines, in fact independently of meteorological events and aftershocks.
These new findings are presented by a German-Franco-Japanese team of geoscientists in the current issue of the journal Geology, under the lead of the GFZ...
Bacteria do not cease to amaze us with their survival strategies. A research team from the University of Basel's Biozentrum has now discovered how bacteria enter a sleep mode using a so-called FIC toxin. In the current issue of “Cell Reports”, the scientists describe the mechanism of action and also explain why their discovery provides new insights into the evolution of pathogens.
For many poisons there are antidotes which neutralize their toxic effect. Toxin-antitoxin systems in bacteria work in a similar manner: As long as a cell...
It comes when called, bringing care utensils with it and recording how they are used: Fraunhofer IPA is developing an intelligent care cart that provides care staff with physical and informational support in their day-to-day work. The scientists at Fraunhofer IPA have now completed a first prototype. In doing so, they are continuing in their efforts to improve working conditions in the care sector and are developing solutions designed to address the challenges of demographic change.
Technical assistance systems can improve the difficult working conditions in residential nursing homes and hospitals by helping the staff in their work and...
20.08.2015 | Event News
20.08.2015 | Event News
19.08.2015 | Event News
28.08.2015 | Physics and Astronomy
28.08.2015 | Health and Medicine
28.08.2015 | Life Sciences