Monday, March 17, 2014

Mongol monsoons

Often my posts about past weather patterns are based on evidence from prehistoric times that lends further credence to global climate change. But scientists at West Virginia University have discovered tree-ring data that explains in part a series of historic events. Amy Hessl and her colleagues in the Department of Geology and Geography have found evidence of an unusual stretch of warmth and wetness in Mongolia that lasted from 1211 to 1225 A.D. That span matches exactly the time when the founder of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan (1162?-1227), was successfully conquering an area stretching from East Asia to Eastern Europe, and including parts of northern India and the Middle East. The mild temperatures and unprecedented rain would have promoted the growth of abundant grass on the Mongolian steppe, which would have increased the number of grazing animals. It would have supported the great herds of livestock that fed the members of Genghis Khan's army and the number of horses – 5 apiece – that his soldiers (IMAGE ABOVE) were said to have had. Observes Hessl, "Nature set the table, and Genghis Khan came to eat."

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