Drought in the Middle East Was the Worst in Over 900 Years - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Drought in the Middle East Was the Worst in Over 900 Years

The severity of the drought, NASA scientists say, is further evidence of climate change.

(Photo: Bert Kaufmann/CC BY 2.0)

A drought in the Middle East that began in 1998 and ended over a decade later was the worst in over 900 years, according to NASA scientists.

The scientists studied tree rings in the area of the drought to identify patterns reaching back centuries. They eventually concluded that there was an 89 percent chance that the drought was the driest in over 900 years, and a 98 percent chance that it was the driest in 500 years.

The drought spanned a large area in the Middle East, affecting countries like Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. Scientists say that the severity of the drought was further evidence of climate change.

“The magnitude and significance of human climate change requires us to really understand the full range of natural climate variability,” Ben Cook, lead author and climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, tells Haaretz.

Cook’s article is to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

The most recent drought is likely 10 to 20 percent drier than any since 1100, the article’s authors tell Haaretz, and may also be evidence of a drought in Western Europe.

“Both for modern society and certainly ancient civilizations, it means that if one region was suffering the consequences of the drought, those conditions are likely to exist throughout the Mediterranean basin,” Kevin Anchukaitis, an author of the study, tells Haaretz.