Numerous droughts have hit European agriculture over the ages, but their overall extent has been known mainly from scattered historical documents. Here, an English calendar page, circa 1310, shows men harvesting wheat. (Queen Mary’s Psalter, Wikimedia commons)
he long history of severe droughts across Europe and the Mediterranean has largely been told through historical documents and ancient journals, each chronicling the impact in a geographically restricted area. Now, for the first time, an atlas based on scientific evidence provides the big picture, using tree rings to map the reach and severity of dry and wet periods across Europe, and parts of North Africa and the Middle East, year to year over the past 2,000 years.
Together with two previous drought atlases covering North America and Asia, the Old World Drought Atlas significantly adds to the historical picture of long-term climate variability over the Northern Hemisphere. In so doing, it should help climate scientists pinpoint causes of drought and extreme rainfall in the past, and identify patterns that could lead to better climate model projections for the future. A paper describing the new atlas, coauthored by scientists from 40 institutions, appears today in the journalScience Advances.
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