The Middle East's worst drought in 900 years may be behind the Syrian crisis, says NASA study

After studying tree rings throughout the Levant and the Mediterranean, NASA scientists concluded that the current drought in the Levant is 10 to 20 percent drier than the worst drought of the past 900 years.

    2016/03/13

NSFW    WASHINGTON DC — A recent NASA study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research has attributed conflict in the Middle East, at least in part, to a series of droughts caused by man-made climate change.

The current megadrought in the Levant region, which includes Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, began in 1998. In recent years, locals have had to deal with water shortages, crop failures and record-breaking heat.

To map out droughts in the region over time, researchers examined tree rings from both live and dead trees. Trees rings are like an ecological footprint. Thin rings mean a tree lived through a period of drought. The thinner the ring, the longer the drought. According to NASA, the scientists studied tree samples from countries bordering the Mediterranean including countries in the Levant, Greece, Spain and southern France.

From the data gathered, scientists were able to form an idea of drought patterns in the region in recent years compared to historical records. In their study, they discovered that the current drought in the Levant is 10 to 20 percent drier than the worst drought of the past 900 years.

The cause of the drought is likely anthropogenic, as scientists observed anomalies in the current tree ring data well outside of the bounds of natural variation.

The drought has contributed to food insecurities and poverty in the region, and led to a mass exodus of refugees out of the Middle East and into Europe.

Human conflict and environmental problems are often intertwined. Studies have shown that before the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011, the country had just experienced one of the most severe droughts in recorded history.
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The current megadrought in the Levant region began in 1998. REUTERS
The current megadrought in the Levant region began in 1998. REUTERS
The thinner the tree ring, the longer the drought. UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI
The thinner the tree ring, the longer the drought. UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI
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