Published On: Fri, Mar 4th, 2016

Recent Mediterranean drought was region’s worst in 900 years, NASA says

In the pictured NASA graphic indicating conditions in January 2012,   brown shades show the decrease in water storage from the 2002-2015 average in the Mediterranean region (units in centimeters). Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio.

A newly published National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) study has concluded that a drought from 1998-2012 in the eastern Mediterranean was the region’s worst drought during the past 900 years.

The drought’s history in Cyprus, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey was reconstructed by studying tree rings in order to understand the region’s climate and determine what shifts water to or from the area. Dry years are indicated by thin tree rings, and relatively wet years are indicated by thick rings, according to NASA.

The research seeks to improve computer models that simulate climate in the present and the future. NASA’s team also discovered patterns in the geographic distribution of droughts that provide a “fingerprint” for identifying droughts induced by human-driven climate change.

“The magnitude and significance of human climate change requires us to really understand the full range of natural climate variability, ” said Dr. Ben Cook, lead author and climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at New York’s Columbia University.

“If we look at recent events and we start to see anomalies that are outside this range of natural variability, then we can say with some confidence that it looks like this particular event or this series of events had some kind of human caused climate change contribution, ” he said.

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