In the light of the recent development of drought across the United States, a couple of NASA researchers took a look a more arid region: the Middle East. While studying the phenomenon, they discovered that the area is currently affected by the worst drought in the last nine hundred years.
The scientists had to analyze tree rings in order to determine both the frequency and the length of droughts across history. This has led them to the conclusion that the current one that started back in 1998 is unusual from other ones.
According to Dr. Ben Cook, leader of the study,
“If we look at recent events, we start to see anomalies that are outside this range of natural variability. It looks like this particular event or this series of events had some kind of human-caused climate change contribution.”
By using ring tree patterns, the scientists were able to create a record of centuries of both dry and wet periods, as well as identify climate patterns. Each ring found on a trunk stands for one year in the life of the tree. Dr. Cook has stated that during a wet season trees grow more quickly, and thus the ring is wider. However, a dry year would leave a significantly slimmer ring on the trunk of the tree.
The researchers were helped by the International Tree Ring Data Bank which contains numerous different records from the region, including Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, but also Mediterranean countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Spain. They began by comparing the climate records belonging to the last decades, and then they went on to examine the patterns dated from nine hundred years ago.
Both the length of the dry periods and their density has led researchers to believe that the current drought has been caused by humans. This lack of water leads to tensions between people and between nations. The World Resources Institute has even pointed out that regional strife is most likely also caused by the scarcity of water resources.
According to their report, the lack of water and its poor management have fueled the civil war that started in 2011. Furthermore, this has forced more than 1.5 million people to lose their homes and leave their countries and thus have contributed to the general destabilization of Syria.
Other countries like Israel have found alternatives to dealing with drought, such as implementing programs for economizing water and making tremendous efforts for desalinization. However, in the context of conflict other measures must be found.
Image Source: Coachella Valley