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Iranian stalagmites suggest Middle East unlikely to get reprieve from drought

"The future long-term trend based on paleoclimate reconstructions is likely towards diminishing precipitation," researcher Sevag Mehterian said.

By
Brooks Hays

July 10 (UPI) -- New analysis of Iranian stalagmites have offered a detailed history of water resources in the region. The findings suggest the Middle East is unlikely to enjoy a relief from its prolonged drought for at least another 10,000 years.

The newest analysis -- detailed this week in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews -- helped scientists estimate water availability during the last glacial and interglacial periods. The findings suggest water in the Middle East is likely to remain scarce for some time.

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"Local governments generally prefer the narrative that the region is only in a temporary dry spell and better prospects of water availability lay ahead," Sevag Mehterian, lead author of the new study and a doctoral student at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School, said in a news release. "Our study has found evidence to the contrary, suggesting that in fact, the future long-term trend based on paleoclimate reconstructions is likely towards diminishing precipitation, with no relief in the form of increased Mediterranean storms, the primary source of annual precipitation to the region, in the foreseeable future."

Stalagmites are formed by calcium deposits on the cave's floor, which build up as water drips from the cave's ceiling. Shifts in chemical composition with their layers, like an ice or sediment core, can reveal changes in climate.

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Analysis of the Iranian stalagmites revealed a strong connection between water availability and solar insolation -- the amount of sunlight shining onto Earth's surface -- between 75,000 and 130,000 years ago. Similar correlations were found among stalagmites elsewhere in Eurasia. Ice cores and sediment records confirmed the link between the climate patterns of the Middle East and Eurasia.

Climate models suggest solar insolation is unlikely to increase for another 10,000 years, which means reprieve from the Middle East's prolonged drought isn't likely to arrive any time soon.

A number of climate models have previously predicted much of the Middle East will become too hot and dry to sustain large human populations by the end of the century.

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