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Climate tied to rise, fall of cultures

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Davos, Switzerland (UPI) Jan 14, 2011
Researchers say studies of tree growth rings suggest a link between the rise and fall of past civilizations and sudden shifts in Europe's climate.

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape gathered data from 9,000 wooden artifacts from the past 2,500 years and found that periods of warm, wet summers coincided with prosperity, while political turmoil occurred during times of climate instability, the BBC reported Friday.

"Looking back on 2,500 years, there are examples where climate change impacted human history," Ulf Buntgen, an institute paleoclimatologist, says.

The researchers reconstructed annual weather patterns from the growth rings preserved in the artifacts.

Once they had developed a 2,500-year chronology, they identified links with prosperity levels in past societies, such as the Roman Empire.

"Wet and warm summers occurred during periods of Roman and medieval prosperity," the researchers said. "Increased climate variability from 250-600 A.D. coincided with the demise of the western Roman empire and the turmoil of the migration period," the team reported.

"Distinct drying in the 3rd Century paralleled a period of serious crisis in the western Roman empire marked by barbarian invasion, political turmoil and economic dislocation in several provinces of Gaul," they said.

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Ithaca, N.Y. (UPI) Jan 8, 2011
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