January 13, 2011

Fall of Rome Recorded in Trees

Andrew Curry, Science Now


Wikimedia Commons

When empires rise and fall and plagues sweep over the land, people have traditionally cursed the stars. But perhaps they should blame the weather. A new analysis of European tree-ring samples suggests that mild summers may have been the key to the rise of the Roman Empire—and that prolonged droughts, cold snaps, and other climate changes might have played a part in historical upheavals, from the barbarian invasions that brought about Rome's collapse to the Black Death that wiped out much of medieval Europe.

"Looking back on 2500 years, there are examples where climate change impacted human history," says the study's lead author, Ulf Büntgen, a paleoclimatologist at the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape in Zurich. "This kind of...

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TAGGED: Historical Events, Weather, Climate, Dendrochronology

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